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 is 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 in Sunday’s nightcap of 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. But this was particularly bad 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 lost the next three games, twice on Sunday, including an opener in which they led by five runs with two outs and one on in the bottom of the last.
“It was a tough one, definitely,” Luis Rojas said before his team lost another tough won Sunday.
Both games Sunday went to extra innings. Gio Urshela walked the Mets off in the opener with an RBI single in the eighth inning. In the nightcap, Gary Sanchez awoke from his baseball coma to hit a grand slam in the eighth inning.
The Yankees, despite the injuries and troubling play in multiple areas, at least are comfortably in a playoff spot — unless you think the Tigers are going to finish with a better record this year.
The Mets could have improved their situation had they followed through on the euphoria of Friday in which they sent the Yankees to their sixth and seventh straight losses. Instead, they are 15-19 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?
There also are questions just how much Hal Steinbrenner will be willing to add to the payroll — if at all. 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 to match his stuff Sunday. 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 a 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.
With Tommy Kahnle out for the year with Luis Severino and Domingo German, 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. 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.
In a weekend heavy on games and often inelegant play, Garcia offered a whiff of promise in the end.