Monday, June 30, 2008


METS FANS have bragging rights over their Yankee counterparts, but supporters of both teams were perhaps left slightly dissatisfied by the events of this weekend.

After embarrassing the Yankees 15-6 in the first installment of Friday’s double-header to complete a 3-0 road sweep, the Mets returned to Shea cock-a-hoop only to be shut out by Sidney Ponson.

When Andy Pettitte got the better of a pitching duel with Mets ace Johan Santana on Saturday, the momentum had most definitely swung the Yankees’ way.

This time it was their turn to be deflated as they once again looked powerless to lay bat on ball against the enigmatic Oliver Pérez.

It was hard to believe that this was the same pitcher who had given up seven hits and six runs in just five innings against the stinking Seattle Mariners on his previous start.

Joe Girardi’s decision to leave lefties Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano on the bench backfired as their rightie replacements failed to do the job.

The Yankees had to put Pérez under early pressure but whatever they tried, they couldn’t get on base.

Michael Kaye, commentating on the YES Network, described it as a “must win” game for the Mets. But in many ways, it was more a “must win” for the Yankees.

For a start, they could have escaped from this year’s Subway Series with a 3-3 split. And despite having a worse record than their cross-town rivals, the Mets are actually better placed in the standings.

The Mets (40-41) are just three games back in the National League East Division, chasing a Philadelphia Phillies team that has lost 11 of their last 14 games.

Bronx Bombers chasing both the Rays and Red Sox

The Yankees (44-38) are five and a half games behind the surging Tampa Bay Rays and five behind Boston in the American League East.

They’re also five games out in the wild card standings so it’s not too difficult to figure out who faces the bigger challenge in the second half of the season.

The Yanks don’t want to fall further behind before the All-Star break and they have an opportunity to make up some ground in the next nine days when they play three against the Texas Rangers, four against the Red Sox and two against the Rays – all at the Stadium.

They will have to do it without Hideki Matsui, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a swollen left knee, a worrying sign for a player who has been plagued by injuries in the last two seasons.

Matsui’s absence significantly shortens the batting line-up and these continual injury problems have made it a disjointed season so far for the Yanks.

On the positive side, Cano has shown signs in recent games of emerging from his slump and Ponson pitched better than anyone could have expected on his “second coming.”

It’s unlikely that he will be able to maintain that standard, but he won’t need any extra motivation on his next start on Wednesday against the Rangers – the club that sacked him for his alleged misdemeanors.

Darrell Rasner worked his way out of a few jams yesterday but, like Ponson, it’s hard to envisage him being a long-term member of the Yankees’ starting rotation.

However, until Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are deemed fit to return, the Yanks are having to make do with the resources available, unless, of course, general manager Brian Cashman can persuade the Cleveland Indians to part with C.C. Sabathia.

Boston are not without their own injury problems. David Ortiz is still out due to a wrist problem, Kevin Youkilis is day-to-day after being hit in the right eye and Bartolo Colon is also on the DL with a bad back.

The Yanks need to take advantage. A 2-2 split won’t be good enough this week. 

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