Mets win four in a row over Yankees, sweep season series for first time ever

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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.

The 2017 Yankees are, somehow, plucky underdogs

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There’s a lot that has happened in the past year that I never, ever would’ve thought would or even could happen in America. Many of them are serious, some are not, some make me kinda happy and some make me terribly sad. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way in this oddest of years.

There’s one thing in baseball, however, that still has me searching my feelings in a desperate effort to know what to feel: The New York Yankees are the postseason’s plucky underdogs.

This is not about them being lovable or likable — we touched on that last week — it’s more about the role they play in the grand postseason drama. A postseason they weren’t even supposed to be in.

None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them — Steve Wulf — thought the Yankees would make the postseason (he thought they’d win the division). I’m sure if you go over the plethora of professional prognosticator’s predictions a few would have the Yankees squeaking in to the postseason on the Wild Card, but that was nothing approaching a consensus view. Their 2017 regular season was a surprise to almost everyone, with the expectation of a solid, if unspectacular rebuilding year being greatly exceeded. To use a sports cliche, nobody believed in them.

Then came the playoffs. Most people figured the Yankees would beat the Twins in the Wild Card game and they did, but most figured they’d be cannon fodder for the Indians. And yep, they fell down early, losing the first two games of the series and shooting themselves in the foot in spectacular fashion in the process. Yet they came back, beating arguably the best team in baseball and certainly the best team in the American League in three straight games despite the fact that . . . nobody believed in them.

Now we’re in the ALCS. The Astros — the other choice for best team in the American League if you didn’t think the Indians were — jumped out to a 2-0 lead, quieting the Yankees’ powerful bats. While a lot of teams have come back from 0-2 holes in seven game series, the feel of this thing as late as Monday morning was that, even if the Yankees take a game at home, Houston was going to cruise into the World Series. Once again . . . nobody believed in them.

Yet, here we are on this late Wednesday morning, with the Yankees having tied things up 2-2. As I wrote this morning, you still have to like the Astros’ chances given that their aces, Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, are set to go in Games 5 and 6. I’m sure a lot of people feel still like the Astros’ chances for that reason. So that leads us to this . . .

It’s one thing for no one to have, objectively, believed in the Yankees chances. It’s another thing, though, for the New York Yankees — the 27-time World Champions, the 40-time American League pennant winners, the richest team in the game, the house-at-the-casino, U.S. Steel and the Evil Empire all wrapped into one — to officially play the “nobody believed in us” card on their own account. That’s the stuff of underdogs. Of Davids facing Goliaths. Of The Little Guy, demanding respect that no one ever considered affording them. If you’re not one of those underdogs and you’re playing that card, you’re almost always doing it out of some weird self-motivational technique and no one else will ever take you seriously. And now you’re telling me the NEW YORK FRIGGIN’ YANKEES are playing that card?

Thing is: they’re right. They’ve totally earned the right to play it because, really, no one believed in them. Even tied 2-2, I presume most people still don’t, actually.

I don’t know how to process this. Nothing in my 40 years of baseball fandom has prepared me for the Yankees to be the David to someone else’s Goliath and to claim righteous entitlement to the whole “nobody believed in us” thing.

Which, as I said at the beginning, is nothing new in the year 2017. I just never thought it’d happen in baseball.