After the Yankees and Mets combined to spend nearly a billion dollars in free agency this offseason, it seemed New York might cement its status at the center of the baseball universe. Yet, the Yankees trail the Rays and Orioles — who combined to spend less than $65 million — in the AL East race while the Mets sit four games below .500, not in a race of any kind at the moment. Tonight, the disappointing Big Apple squads will face off sans several of their key offseason additions and other contributors who are sitting out with injuries.
One of the Mets’ more recent stud free-agent acquisitions, future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer, will take the hill for them tonight. Earlier this season, he contributed to the malaise, pitching to a 5.56 ERA and 6.27 FIP through his first five starts around a sticky stuff suspension and a neck issue. Yet, since skipping a start with the neck injury, he’s been phenomenal, with a 2.35 ERA and 2.13 FIP in five outings. He allowed five runs on 11 hits in his previous outing, so the reinvigorated Scherzer isn’t invincible, but those runs came courtesy of Atlanta — the majors’ fourth-best offense by wRC+ — and he still struck out 10 Braves.
Even with Aaron Judge in the lineup, this would be a tough matchup for the Bombers. Without their captain, they’ll have to rely even more on Luis Severino to go tit-for-tat with Scherzer. The injury-plagued Severino, the game’s fifth-best starter by WAR from 2017-18 (incidentally, Scherzer was the best during that period), will toe the slab for just the fifth time this year after a spring training lat injury. Last year, he returned from a mid-season lat strain and was effective, and things seemed headed that way after he tossed 11.1 innings of three-run ball through his first two outings this season. But in his two starts since, he’s yielded 11 runs on six homers in just nine innings, with a noticeable drop in fastball velocity to boot.
The Mets' offense has been slightly above average by wRC+, ranking 12th in the league with a 102 mark. But without star first baseman Pete Alonso, who went on the IL Friday after a hit-by-pitch earlier in the week, the unit looks a lot less threatening; it could represent an opportunity for Severino to get back on track, especially once he gets past the top two hitters in Brandon Nimmo and rookie sensation Francisco Alvarez.
Nimmo — the center fielder whom the Mets signed to an eight-year, $162 million contract this offseason— ranks 18th in the majors with a .374 on-base percentage, the ideal table-setter. Alvarez, the young catcher, has the third-most homers among rookies this season, with over 100 fewer plate appearances than each of the two ahead of him (Josh Jung and Corbin Carroll). But after Nimmo and Alvarez, the only other hitter in the Mets’ lineup with a wRC+ meaningfully above average is Tommy Pham, the DH hitting seventh, and more of his damage has come against southpaws.
As for the Yankees, they’ll switch things up with Jake Bauers at leadoff, and he’ll be playing right field. It’s his first time in the one-spot since May 19th; since then, he’s hit to a 138 wRC+ clip in 53 plate appearances. Willie Calhoun, who’s led off in three of the last five contests, gets the night off after taking a Carlos Rodón heater off his elbow in live BP Sunday (though he did play that night). Giancarlo Stanton, who’s gone just 3-for-21 since returning, gets the nod at DH in the two-hole. Gleyber Torres, with two homers in his last four contests, will bat third and play second. The struggling Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu each move down a spot to fourth and fifth in the order; they’ll man their usual infield corners. Elsewhere, Billy McKinney will look to build on his early success, playing left field and hitting seventh.
How to watch
Location: Citi Field — Queens, NY
First pitch: 7:10 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES, WPIX, TBS
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WCBS 880, WADO 1280
Online stream: MLB.tv