Gerrit Cole did not start over the weekend. Neither did Masahiro Tanaka. Yet, the only part of the Yankees team that performed well against the Mets was the rotation — or the area they are most trying to improve before the 4 p.m. Monday trade deadline.
Deivi Garcia punctuated the effort by Yankee starters with a terrific six innings in his debut Sunday that capped both a doubleheader and also a five-game Subway Series that was often bizarre and regularly uninspiring.
Neither team performed well over the weekend. Maybe it is the mental strain of this challenging season and/or the physical wear of five games in three days or the lack of rival New York fans chanting and cheering to fill their favorite club with fuel.
The weekend, though, clearly was worse for the Mets considering that on Friday they swept a doubleheader, walked the Yankees off in The Bronx in the nightcap and learned that one of America’s richest men, Steve Cohen, had locked into exclusive negotiating rights to buy the club.
These are the Mets, though. They followed by losing three games, two in extra innings on Sunday, including an opener in which they led by five runs with two outs and one on in the seventh inning (Reminder alert: That is the final regular inning in a 2020 doubleheader).
“It was a tough one, definitely,” Luis Rojas said before his team lost another tough one Sunday. That came when Gary Sanchez, who otherwise spent the weekend being bad at baseball, hit an extra-inning grand slam.
So from the euphoria of Friday — Amed Rosario assuring the sweep by walking off Aroldis Chapman amid stories that Cohen was closing in on buying the team — the Mets are now 15-19, tied for the 11th-best record in the NL. Yet, they remain tantalizingly close to a playoff spot as they enter a matinee Monday against the Marlins that coincides with the final few hours before the trade deadline.
They are trying to upgrade their catching and, if possible, their pitching. But will the outgoing Wilpons allow Brodie Van Wagenen to use more prospects and/or money to try to fix this team?
The Yankees, meanwhile, are comfortably in a playoff spot, unless you think the Tigers are going to finish with a better record this year. Still, the two areas that were supposed to carry them — deep lineup and bullpen — have been overwhelmed by injury and poor performance.
Questions abound within the sport just how much Hal Steinbrenner will be willing to add to the payroll — if at all — at the deadline. Or will the Yankees consider their additions getting Zack Britton, James Paxton, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres back at some point? They have talked to the Diamondbacks about outfielder Starling Marte and continue to pursue pitching, checking in on Texas’ Lance Lynn, for example.
But the work of a makeshift rotation against the Mets at least provided a reprieve. Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, J.A. Happ, Mike King and finally Garcia held the Mets to five earned runs in 25 innings (1.80 ERA), walking one and whiffing 23.
Garcia is the most compelling. He and Clarke Schmidt are the Yankees’ best pitching prospects. But Garcia was on the 40-man roster and Schmidt wasn’t, which is part of the reason he got the call to pitch this Subway finale. At 21, Garcia is the youngest starter in the majors this year. But he showed poise, precision and potential. He was in command of his stuff and the game.
“He was in the strike zone tonight,” Aaron Boone said after watching Garcia whiff six and walk none.
With a deceptive fastball and good-luck-hitting-it curve, Garcia held the Mets scoreless through five innings before a Luke Voit error led to an unearned run in the sixth. Garcia was optioned back to the alternate site after the game, so it might be a bit until we see if Sunday was the beginning of something special or the young righty capitalizing on a Mets club in shock after blowing the opener.
With Tommy Kahnle, Luis Severino and Domingo German out for the year, and the oft-injured Paxton’s return perpetually iffy, the Yanks will need at least some of the inexperienced pitchers such as Loaisiga, King and Garcia to succeed in more prominent roles — probably even if they trade for pitching. The Yanks were toying with bringing Garcia up for the playoffs last year and his work Sunday emphasized that he could be on track to be more than a thought this season. The Yanks have a fourth doubleheader in 10 days scheduled Friday against the Orioles.
“We have to talk about that and get back to you,” Boone said of Garcia’s future.
In a Subway weekend of heavy on games and often inelegant play, Garcia offered a whiff of promise in the end.