What We Learned From the Mets Versus the Yankees

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Ouch: Santana. Photo: Getty Images

The Yankees and Mets have finished the first of this season’s two Subway Series. Generally speaking, players find the crosstown games less exciting or significant than fans do, and often complain that the series are unnecessary distractions. But hey: They’re our unnecessary distractions, and having the two local teams play each other six times a season is fun (and the main reason interleague play exists anyway). You can tell a lot about each team when you pair them off against each other. Here’s what we gleaned from this weekend’s 2–1 Yankees series win.

1.Luis Castillo has finally made a name for himself. The portly Mets second baseman was, up until Friday night, renowned mostly for being general manager Omar Minaya’s worst personnel pick. (It’s astounding that Castillo is signed for two and a half more seasons, at a total of $15 million.) But after his jaw-dropping error at Friday night’s season opener — muffing an easy game-ending pop-up that allowed the winning two runs — he now has a permanent place in wretched Mets lore. It’ll make an appearance in every montage about Mets futility until the end of time. It’s impossible to fathom a worse way to lose a baseball game, and Castillo, not exactly Mr. Popularity in the first place, is probably going to have to hit a grand slam to win a World Series to atone for it, and everything else.

2.The Andy Pettitte you remember is gone. Do you realize that it has been four seasons since Andy Pettitte had an ERA under 4.00? Take away his three-year interlude in Houston, and Pettitte hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2002. His record after losing Saturday is 6–3, but that’s deceiving: He’s only made it out of the seventh inning once in his last ten starts, his strikeout rate is dropping, and if you take away his solid April, his ERA is a whopping 6.22 over the last month and a half. A.J. Burnett’s seven shutout innings yesterday were encouraging, but if Pettitte doesn’t turn it around (and at 37 years old, that’s unlikely), the lineup is going to have to bash its way to wins three or four times a week. After Chien-Ming Wang’s shellacking in Boston — in which he gave up four runs in two and two thirds innings and lowered his ERA — the Yankees have two holes in their rotation. When will they cry uncle and give one of those spots — surely Wang’s first — to Phil Hughes?

3. Some players would like to amp up the Subway Series. Brian Bruney's “feud” with Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez — Bruney said K-Rod’s histrionic celebrations were “a tired act,” and Rodriguez responded with "he better keep his mouth shut" — bubbled over into an actual confrontation Saturday Sunday, with Rodriguez screaming at Bruney and teammates eventually stepping between them. This is a completely pointless feud, but it has been nearly a decade since the Roger Clemens–Mike Piazza feud, and the Subway Series has lost most of its bad blood. If it takes two relief pitchers jawing at each other over nonsense to bring out the fisticuffs again, we’ll take it. Also: We learned that Brian Bruney is awfully mouthy for a middling middle reliever currently on the disabled list. K-Rod's anger at Bruney, like his histrionics, was genuine.

4.There might be something wrong with Johan! After all the holes sprung in the Mets’ dike, the one person the team wasn’t concerned about was Johan Santana, but he was hammered yesterday, giving up a career-high nine runs in three innings. Speaking of pitchers faltering after a hot start, Santana — the lifeblood of the staff, the one true Mets savior — has been falling back of late, putting together three rough starts in a row in June. (In his last start before yesterday’s game, Santana gave up four home runs against the Phillies, the most he’d ever allowed in one game.) Yesterday’s start was even worse.

It’s a little early to start wailing about Johan — he’s had just three starts, after all — but his velocity has been down this month (he appears to be topping out at around 92-93 mph on his fastball) and there are fears that he might have an injury no one has diagnosed yet. Obviously, given the intensive care unit the Mets clubhouse has become, an injury to Johan would be devastating. Hopefully he’s just going through a rough stretch (one like he’s never seen before) and will be back to normal in a week or so. Johan says he’s “not hurt … been battling soreness here or there, that’s it.” But if he is hurt, or doesn’t return to form … it’s difficult to imagine how the Mets can possibly remain competitive. They’re four games behind Philadelphia already. It is getting late, fast.