The Yankees Outlasted an Ace. Two More May Loom.
A day after battling Alek Manoah, a candidate for this year’s American League Cy Young Award, and fending off a four-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees will not get a reprieve. Looming on Monday and Tuesday is a two-game series against the Mets and the possibility of facing the two-headed monster atop their crosstown rival’s starting rotation.
First up is Max Scherzer, who is scheduled to start Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Jacob deGrom had been expected to follow, keeping up their recent string of back-to-back starts, but he could end up being pushed back — giving the slumping Yankees a mild reprieve — so the Mets can give Taijuan Walker a start instead.
Walker, who left his start on Tuesday with back spasms, had a magnetic resonance imaging test, which revealed a bulging disk, but he participated in pitcher fielding practice on Sunday. Mets Manager Buck Showalter told reporters that the workout went well and that Walker could now take Tuesday’s start, but the Mets won’t decide until Monday.
Either way, the Yankees have a tall task in front of them at a time when they could use a few easy matchups. They beat the Blue Jays, 4-2, on Sunday at Yankee Stadium after Andrew Benintendi hit his first home run since being traded from Kansas City, but the Yankees have just five wins this month and are coming off a .500 July.
“No secret what we’re going through,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said after Benintendi’s two-run, seventh-inning shot off Adam Cimber. “That was a big blow and an important game.”
The Yankees (74-48) scored as many runs Sunday as they had in the first three games of the series against Toronto. They held a 15.5-game lead in the American League East through July 8, but the Yankees’ advantage over Toronto and Tampa Bay is now down to eight games.
That is plenty of cushion for a team that looked like a World Series favorite over the first three months of the season. But the Mets (79-44) have been far hotter in recent weeks, and the prospect of facing Scherzer and, perhaps, deGrom is formidable for any team.
Scherzer, a 38-year-old right-hander, is adding yet another stellar campaign to his résumé. He owns a 2.15 E.R.A. in his first season with the Mets. He most recently allowed four earned runs over six and one-third innings against Atlanta on Wednesday. He had left that game with the Mets leading, 6-1, but the bases were loaded when he gave way to Adam Ottavino, who allowed a three-run homer later in the inning.
DeGrom, meanwhile, made his season debut on Aug. 2 after recovering from a shoulder injury. DeGrom, a 34-year-old right-hander, has been his usual self in four starts, allowing six earned runs over 23⅓ innings while striking out 37 and walking one. In his last start, deGrom gave up three runs and struck out nine against Atlanta over six and two-thirds innings.
Even if the Yankees face Walker on Tuesday, he won’t be an easy assignment. A 2021 All-Star, Walker owns a 3.36 E.R.A. over 21 starts this season, including a win over the Yankees on July 26. Walker, 30, held the Yankees to three runs at Citi Field that night, and the Mets took both games of that series.
Now the Yankees are looking to exact a little revenge. But more important, they’re hoping to stay on a winning track after a difficult series against a division foe ended with a hard-fought victory.
“You definitely never want to get swept, and to win this last one was big,” Benintendi said. “Hopefully, it’s going to kick-start a little streak here. Obviously, it’s not ideal, but we’re still in a great spot.”