Reporting John Montone
NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – Less than a month ago, the Yankees were swept by their fiercest rival and relinquished the AL East lead.
An impressive surge has seen them reclaim that advantage.
The Yankees look to extend their longest winning streak of the season – and take the 2011 Subway Series — when they visit the Mets in the opener on Friday night.
Two wins would secure bragging rights to the Bronx. But not so fast, Yankees fans. Despite Thursday afternoon’s loss to Detroit, the Mets have been on a tear.
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“It’s fun, because it creates great excitement in the city,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “Everybody gets up for playing the Yankees, and we need to also.”
“I think there’s a lot of excitement no matter what when these two teams get together,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The Mets have really been swinging the bat and playing well, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Yankees (48-31) dropped all three meetings with Boston from June 7-9, falling two games behind the Red Sox in the division race. Winning 15 of 19 has put them 2 1/2 games up in the East, and they now own the AL’s best record.
The surge continued with Thursday’s 5-0 victory over Milwaukee, giving the Yankees a five-game winning streak for the first time since an eight-game run from Aug. 28-Sept. 4. They’ve outscored opponents 36-11 over the last five games.
Ivan Nova (7-4, 4.26 ERA) attempts to keep his career-high winning streak going.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.71 ERA over his last four starts. However, Nova struggled through his latest outing while not getting a decision in Sunday’s 6-4 win over Colorado. He was tagged for a career-high three homers while allowing four runs in six innings.
Nova didn’t get a decision in his only meeting with the Mets (41-40) on May 22, allowing three runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-3 win.
This time, he’ll contend with a Mets team that is hitting .385 with five homers and 54 runs in five games. The Mets had 10 hits in a 5-2 loss at Detroit on Thursday, as their four-game winning streak ended.
Jose Reyes has done much of that damage, going 14 for 24 with nine runs in the past five games. His .352 average ties him with the Red Sox’s Adrian Gonzalez for tops in baseball and is 61 points higher than his career mark.
“He’s their sparkplug. He gets things going. If we can keep him off the bases, obviously it makes it a lot easier,” said Yankees catcher Russell Martin. “He’s a pest when he’s on base.”
Reyes, though, went 3 for 14 as the Mets dropped two of three to the Yankees from May 20-22.
“I know they are playing really good – they have a really good team,” Nova told the Yankees’ official website. “I know I’m going to have a lot of run support from my teammates, too, so I’ve just got to keep my team in the game and pitch a good game.”
Alex Rodriguez feasted on Mets pitching in May, going 7 for 13 with seven runs. He’s hitting .440 with one homer and 11 RBIs in 13 interleague games this season.
Mark Teixeira has seen four of his five hits over the past five games go for homers, including the 300th of his career Thursday. He’s driven in eight runs in that stretch and is among baseball’s leaders with 25 homers and 63 RBIs despite a career-low .243 average.
His last four hits versus the Mets have been homers, but all have come in the Bronx. He’s 4 for 24 with three RBIs in six games at Citi Field.
The Mets are looking to continue their torrid hitting, and finding motivation against the Yankees doesn’t seem to be a problem.
“When we went to Yankee Stadium, we were playing very good baseball,” Reyes said. “We won the first game, and then we were playing .500. Right now, we’re one game over .500, so we’re feeling good.”
Collins gives the ball to Jonathon Niese (7-6, 3.67) for his Subway Series debut. Niese experienced a rapid heartbeat while pitching last weekend, underwent numerous tests, and was given a heart monitor to wear.
Collins said Niese is “going to be fine.”
The left-hander is 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in his last six starts. He allowed two runs while striking out seven in 5 2-3 innings of a 14-5 win at Texas on Saturday.
What’s your prediction for Yankees-Mets? Fire away in the comments below…
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