While the Subway Series may have lost some of its luster in the eyes of some of its participants, the New York Mets still can earn a little more respect in the crosstown rivalry.
The National League East-leading Mets hope to build off their recent success against the New York Yankees when the teams kick off a three-game interleague series at Shea Stadium on Friday.
The Yankees (23-16) lead the all-time series 29-19. However, the Mets (24-16) won four of the six meetings in 2004 and split the series last season.
The Mets have a two-game lead over second-place Philadelphia, while the Yankees trail first-place Boston by just a half-game in the AL East.
The Mets’ resurgence this season has made the series a bit more interesting for the fans, but some of the players aren’t nearly as excited.
“I think it’s a great show for the fans,” said slugger Carlos Delgado, taking part in his first Subway Series. “But as a player, it’s a pain.”
Added Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter: “We play them all the time. You know it’s exciting because the fans are excited and you feed off the atmosphere. … But they’re not in our league, they’re not in our division.”
The Mets enter the series on the heels of a 3-6 road trip that ended with Thursday’s 6-3 loss to St. Louis. Carlos Beltran hit a two-run homer and Jose Valentin added a solo shot for the Mets, who have lost their last three series after beginning the season with eight series wins and two splits.
“Well, the road trip is in the past,” said Beltran, who has five homers and 13 RBIs in his last 12 games. “As a team, you go through a lot of ups and downs. You know, we’re hitting a bump and we’re looking forward to getting out of it.”
The injury-riddled Yankees have dropped three of five, including Thursday’s 6-2 loss to Texas. Johnny Damon singled in both runs for the Yankees, who committed two errors and have 17 in their last 11 games.
Bubba Crosby left the game with a strained right hamstring. Gary Sheffield (left wrist and hand) and Hideki Matsui (broken left wrist) are already on the disabled list, and manager Joe Torre said Crosby could land there, depending on how he feels Friday.
Struggling Randy Johnson (5-4, 5.13 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Johnson lost his second straight start on Sunday, allowing four runs and eight hits—including two homers—in six innings of a 6-1 defeat to Oakland.
The hard-throwing lefty gave up three runs in the first inning Sunday, two on a homer by Mark Kotsay that ended a 36-start homerless streak against left-handed batters. After starting the season with three solid starts, he is 3-3 with a 6.89 ERA in his last six.
“There’s nobody more frustrated than me. I’m not pitching the way I’m accustomed to pitching,” said Johnson.
Johnson was dominant in three starts at Shea Stadium from 2002-04, allowing two runs and 16 hits while striking out 37 in 23 1-3 innings. In a road start against the Mets last season, he was tagged for four runs and 12 hits with only five strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings during a 7-1 loss on May 21.
Overall, Johnson is 6-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 12 career starts against the Mets.
The Mets will counter with Jeremi Gonzalez (0-0, 5.40), who gave up three runs and five hits in five innings of the Mets’ 9-8 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday, but did not receive a decision.
Gonzalez was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to help a rotation that has been plagued by injuries to Brian Bannister (right hamstring), Victor Zambrano (right elbow) and John Maine (right middle finger).
Manager Willie Randolph has said Gonzalez and Jose Lima, who was knocked out in the fifth inning Thursday, are auditioning for one spot in the rotation while Bannister recovers from his injury.
Gonzalez is 1-2 with a 4.30 ERA in seven career appearances, including three starts, against the Yankees.