Yankees, Mets could capture momentum with Subway Series sweep

Jim McIsaac/GettyImages

Before the season, it was heavily anticipated that the New York Yankees and New York Mets would be within striking distance or atop their respective divisions when the rivals clashed midway through June. 

Instead, both teams are running cold and are nine games back of their division lead. In June, both teams are struggling and have lost vital pieces. For the second time this season, the Yankees placed Aaron Judge on the 10-day IL without a timetable for his return, while the Mets placed Pete Alonso on the 10-day IL with his return expected sometime in July.

Although both teams are without their superstar bat, all four probable starting pitchers are among the most talented in Major League Baseball: Luis Severino, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander. The Subway Series couldn’t have come at a better time as both teams have the potential to gain a much-needed spark entering the dog days of summer with a series sweep.

Yankees players to watch in Subway Series

Luis Severino

From 2017-2018, Severino was one of MLB's most promising starting pitchers. In his age-23 and -24 seasons, Severino pitched 384.2 innings and logged a 3.18 ERA, and his 11.0 fWAR in that span was the fifth most among qualified starting pitchers. However, thanks to a slew of injuries, including Tommy John surgery, Severino only pitched 18 innings from 2019-2021.

In 2022 Severino was plagued by a lat strain, but he pitched 102.0 innings and finished with a 3.18 ERA, looking much like the old version of himself. The right-hander started the 2023 season on the IL with another lat strain, but he’s since returned and has looked like the worst version of himself to this point of his career. With a career-low K%, a career-high BB% and a career-high HR%, Severino has pitched to a 5.75 ERA across 20.1 innings. However, if he bounces back against the Mets, it could give him much-needed confidence to finish the season strong as well as a crucial lift to the Yankees’ starting rotation.

Anthony Rizzo

Up until he got tangled up with Fernando Tatis Jr. at first base, Rizzo had been the best hitter in the Yankees lineup not named Aaron Judge. However, since then, he has registered just one hit in eight games during which the Yankees needed him the most after Judge was placed on the IL.

Although Aaron Boone said Rizzo was, “fine” following his injury, that hasn’t looked to be the case. With the Yankees lineup faltering, including additional cold streaks from Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson and DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees need Rizzo to get back on track. If he’s “fine,” this is hopefully the series that gets Rizzo back on track.

Mets players to watch in Subway Series

Justin Verlander

Instead of opting to re-sign Jacob deGrom to a long-term deal, which looks like a smart decision, the Mets instead signed Justin Verlander to a two-year, $86.6 million contract in free agency. After winning the AL Cy Young award (175 innings, 1.75 ERA) in 2022, Verlander has regressed heavily in limited action in 2023.

Since returning from the IL and making his Mets debut last month, Verlander has pitched up and down to a 4.85 ERA in 39 innings. While he’s had three dominant starts, Verlander has also had three blow-up starts, including his last outing against the Braves where he gave up 4 earned runs in just three innings. The Mets signed Verlander to be a co-ace alongside Max Scherzer, and with a big start against the Yankees and his former teammate Gerrit Cole, Verlander has a great opportunity to show the Mets why he won the Cy Young last year.

Francisco Lindor

After a disappointing but still effective first season as a Met in 2021, Lindor looked like every bit of the $341 million Steve Cohen signed him to be in 2022. However, in 2023, Lindor has looked eerily similar to the player he was in 2021 rather than 2022.

Hitting a below average .216/.291/.420 (98 wRC+), Lindor has taken a major step back from the .270/.339/.449 (127 wRC+) he posted last season. With Alonso out for this series and the next few weeks, there’s no better time for Lindor to break out than now. Against a team he’s historically played well against, a big series could propel Lindor to finish 2023 strong.

Stats to know: 8-10, 1-3

Without Aaron Judge in the lineup this season, the Yankees are 8-10. The Mets are 1-3 without Pete Alonso in the lineup. 

Last time they played

After an action-packed series at Citi Field in which the Mets swept the Yankees in July, the Yankees bounced back in the Bronx in August, winning two thrillers to sweep the Mets at Yankee Stadium.