By Ernie Palladino
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None of what happened Thursday at Citi Field or Comerica Park is guaranteed to continue, even for the next few games.
Never is, especially when you’re talking about the vagaries of August baseball.
But at least the Mets and Yanks gave their frustrated (Mets) and nervous (Yanks) fans a look back at how good things were in the first half of the year with their series-ending wins over the Marlins and Tigers.
It’s always nice to get that retroactive glimpse of what a team can be once in a while, as the struggle to regain some lost equilibrium grinds through this most laborious month.
The Mets‘ post All-Star break plummet has left little hope for a reversal of fortune, so their fans can only take solace in the small moments like Thursday’s 6-1 victory provide.
Little, satisfying events like R.A. Dickey notching his 15th win with his fourth complete game of the year. Five hits, one run, no walks, and 10 strikeouts. And the lineup produced a few runs, too.
That’s about as good as the Mets can ask for at this point, considering their post-break record has been littered with failed offense and numerous pitching flops.
Since the break, they’ve hit in the lower half of the league, no longer deliverers of the clutch knock. Their pitching has been just as bad over the 26 games; cumulatively 8-18, 4.99. That ranked them 26th in pitching since the break.
But there was Dickey, who started emerging from his own struggles July 29 against Arizona, looking once again like the knuckleballer nobody could hit in the first half. Thanks to the likeable right-hander, the nine-game home losing streak went by the boards and, as an added bonus, so did Jose Reyes’ 26-game hitting streak that ranked as the longest in history by an ex-Met.
For one game at least, Reyes would not pound salt into a franchise lacerated by budget cuts.
Andres Torres, hitting all of .232 going into the game, fell a single short of the cycle and knocked in three runs for the offensive highlight. Fans obviously should not get used to seeing that sixth-inning dinger he hit off Josh Johnson, for this team will never hit homers regularly. And even if they did get a sudden surge of power, they’ve fallen too far out of the wildcard race for it to hold any meaning.
But when a team has slid as the Mets have, even the glimmers become cause for celebration.
The Yanks were in a second-half slump of their own. They, too, were playing sub-.500 ball until Wednesday, though their situation was hardly as grave as their Queens counterparts thanks to the division leeway they’d given themselves beforehand.
Still, seeing AL buzzsaw Justin Verlander strike out 14 Yanks and watching him and Rick Porcello hold that lineup to one homer over the first two losses in Detroit caused some anxiety among those who equate team failure with anything short of a division championship.
But then Curtis Granderson’s three-run homer against Anibal Sanchez in Wednesday’s 12-8 victory and back-to-back blasts by Mark Teixeira and Eric Chavez on consecutive eighth-inning pitches from Joaquin Benoit in Thursday’s 4-3 win showed the old, reliable power the Yanks used to build that first-half lead.
They’re only 8-12 over their last 20. And there hasn’t been a lot of pretty in the second half so far, including Thursday’s game that had Joe Girardi getting himself thrown out in the fifth for arguing Tim Welke’s correctly-reversed foul call on a pop double and Rafael Soriano walking a four-out tightrope in notching his 27th save.
But at least they head into Toronto Friday feeling that the wins could start coming in bunches again. It’s an improving mindset, courtesy of taking two of three from the Mariners and splitting with the Tigers. And for a team still weeks away from getting Alex Rodriguez back, that can be a dangerous thing for the rest of the AL East.
For both teams, Thursday was a day out of the first half, when things looked a lot brighter for the Mets and a lot cleaner for the Yanks.
Ultimately, a treat for the dog days.
Do you think the Yankees or Mets will get back to their first-half ways? Be heard in the comments below…