The struggling Mets likely would have signed up for an even split this week against the crosstown Yankees, but they ended up taking all four games.
Dillon Gee struck out a career-high 12 over 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball tonight in a 3-1 victory over the Yankees. After taking both games at Citi Field on Monday and Tuesday, they also swept the two-game set at Yankee Stadium. While the format changed this year, this is the first time in the 17-year history of interleague play that the Mets have recorded a season sweep of the Yankees.
Gee was the big story of the night. Amid rumors that he could be bullpen-bound when top prospect Zack Wheeler is called up from the minors, he delivered his best start of the season, giving up just four hits and no walks. His only mistake was a solo homer by Robinson Cano in the third inning. He retired the final 15 batters he faced before manager Terry Collins brought the hook in the bottom of the eighth inning. Gee had struck out five batters in a row at that point and was only at 88 pitches, so many questioned the decision, but Scott Rice entered to retire the only two batters he faced and Bobby Parnell had a perfect ninth to lock down his ninth save of the season.
As for the offense, Marlon Byrd put the Mets ahead early with a two-run homer off Vidal Nuno in the top of the second inning. He has now homered in back-to-back games. John Buck later added an insurance run with a well-placed infield single along the third base line in the eighth inning. The Mets outscored the Yankees 16-7 over the course of the four games this week.
The Mets will take a season-high five-game winning streak into Miami this weekend while the Yankees will bring a season-high five game losing streak into a series against the first-place Red Sox. What the Yankees have done over the first two months of the season has been pretty impressive given the number of injuries they have had to put up with, but they are getting Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis back at exactly the right time.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.