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subway series

The Subway Series Is Great for Everybody But the Mets

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 24:  Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees celebrates his home run in the eighth inning with teammate Mark Teixeira in the eighth inning against the New York Mets on June 24, 2012 during interleague play at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The best part of the Subway Series — the part that it has been missing the last few years — is the thrill of having both teams in their respective pennant chases, the games not only having the novelty of the two city teams playing each other, but also the urgency of every game mattering. This has been one of those years, with the Yankees in their fierce five-teams-above-.500 scrum in the AL East and the Mets' 900-team battle for one of the two NL wild-card spots. The only problem with this is when one team in the pennant chase batters the other team in the pennant chase so much that the latter team is barely in the race anymore. The Mets have played terrific against just about everybody (save Cincinnati) over the last month ... except for the Yankees.

The Yankees won the rubber game of the three-game set in Citi Field this weekend last night 6–5, thanks to a massive eighth-inning home run by Robinson Cano. (It actually went over the Big Apple in center field.) This was the game the Mets had counted on winning, considering they had R.A. Dickey, who had thrown two consecutive one-hitters and hadn't allowed an earned run in more than 40 innings, on the mound, but it was not Dickey's evening. He gave up five runs and only struck out three batters. The explosion of media attention on Dickey in the last week reached a crescendo — in our "hey it's a Monday morning, cut us some slack" mixed metaphor of the week, explosions can reach crescendos — with the national telecast last night, but Dickey seemed off from the get-go. After the game, Dickey said, "As controllable as the knuckleball has been for me, it’s still a very violent, very fickle pitch. And she did not cooperate." It is good to finally have our suspicions that Dickey's knuckleball had a specific gender confirmed.

Every game in the Citi Field series was an excellent one, particularly Saturday's. (The one game we attended, by the way. We gotta say: Citi Field has to improve its crowd-funneling capabilities. When there's a packed house, it's impossible to get out of that stadium in under 45 minutes.) Chris Young had been terrific — once again, he's a handy cheap option until his arm inevitably bursts into flames — but made one not-really-so-bad pitch to Raul Ibanez that just slipped over the right field wall, and next thing you knew it was tied. Then Eric Chavez poked a dopey homer into the new left-field seats — there seemed to be a ton of new–Citi Field homers this weekend, didn't there? — off Jon Rauch, and it was over. The Mets' primary issues this year have been defense and the bullpen, and both (thanks to a Lucas Duda misplay in right field) cost them that game. The Mets are fun and exciting and energetic, but it's worth remembering that this team is inherently flawed, at a fundamental level. It's a wonder they've made it this far.

Meanwhile, the weekend series at Citi was also a reminder of how much more noise Yankees fans make in Flushing than Mets fans make in the Bronx. But you know that.

So, now that the carnage and chaos are over, where does everybody stand? The Yankees have put some space in between them and the rest of the division, opening up a two and a half game lead over second-place Baltimore. (It's three and a half over Tampa Bay, five and a half over Boston, and six and a half over Toronto.) The Mets, meanwhile, are in a three-way tie for the wild-card lead with the Giants and the Pirates (!), but the Braves are a half-game back, the Cardinals are a game back, and the Diamondbacks are only one and a half out. In other words, they remain in the scrum. If it weren't for the Yankees, though, they'd be above it.

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images