June 8, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda (18) pitches against the New York Mets during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Yankees won 9-1. Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
First off, this is not really one of those running diaries or a Dear Diary type of thing, and it's not the Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Basketball Diaries, just to be clear. It's just a chronicling of another weekend that pits the New York Mets against the New York Yankees in the 16th season of interleague play by an average New York sports fan. And, apparently, this average sports fan talks about sports a lot, as my poor eight-year-old daughter laments. Though she recently stated that when I babble on and on about sports, what she hears is the sound that the grownups make in a Charlie Brown cartoon: "Wah-wah, wah-wah-wah-no-hitter, wah-wah-wah, wah-wah-Rusty-Staub, wah-wah-wah-1903." Other sentiments and suggestions shared by her: She wishes she had a "young father," I should start using Just For Men and I'm fat. At any rate, let's get to it.
Friday: The first thing I did to prepare for round 16 of Mets vs. Yankees was to take the day off of work on Friday. Now, prepare to do what, I'm not sure, as I wasn't actually going to the game at Yankee Stadium, but just watching it on TV and it didn't start until 7 in the evening. So that was actually unnecessary. So I mowed my lawn and picked up my daughter at the school bus stop and regaled her with a legendary family tale, which, if it were a short story, would be entitled "Use Two Rocks." When my two brothers and I were youngsters, we once approached our father, who was either shining his shoes or deep into his seventh can of Rheingold or both (I can't quite remember), and we inquired if he could purchase a set of weights for us so as to better condition ourselves for our athletic endeavors ("Think how much more we'll excel, therefore bringing glory to the family name," we may have implored). After a brief silence -- and our hopes lifting -- he stared at us and replied, "What do you need weights for? Just go out back and use two rocks." And that was the end of that, but that phrase became a catch-all response in our family for years -- Me: "Mom, my sneakers are getting too tight, I think a need a new pair." Wisecracking brother: "What do you need new sneakers for? Just go out back and use two rocks." And that leads us to the Subway Series and the Mets, as that's kind of what Terry Collins is doing with his patchwork, do-it-yourself, no-excuses philosophy and roster -- using two rocks (I guess Omar Quintanilla and Vinny Rottino are the two rocks in this case).
Still Friday: Sometime before the first game, I found out that Friday was Dave Mlicki's birthday. He, of course, threw a complete-game shutout for the Amazin's in the first-ever Mets-Yankees interleague game in 1997, so I figured the Mets would have karma on their side to win the opening game. But I also discovered it was Jerry Stiller's 85th birthday, and since his kind-of son, George Costanza, worked for the Yankees, that would even things out. But Stiller's sort-of son-in-law, Doug Heffernan, was a Mets fan, so advantage Mets. But new Yankee Stadium has been a house of horrors for Johan Santana, so the edge went back to the Yankees. But the Mets have always tattooed Hiroki Kuroda when he was with the Dodgers, so . . . Well, as it turns out Dave Mlicki and Doug Heffernan held no sway over the outcome, and Johnny Vander Meer's record of consecutive no-hitters was safe (the old Cincinnati Red's second no-no occurred during the first-ever night game at Ebbets Field, by the way, back on June 15, 1938), as the Yankees hammered Santana, winning 9-1. Everything Santana threw was up in the zone (an outcome of too much rest, according to Ron Darling), while Kuroda kept everything down, and it was the Yankee hurler who flirted with a no-hitter for a large chunk of the game. Once the drama of a no-hitter was over (it would have been a shame if Kuroda had to leave the game because of the Daniel Murphy shot off his foot while he was still no-hitting the Mets) and Robinson Cano was done hitting home runs, the game turned into a snoozy evening, lacking the raucousness of Subway Series games of old. And when Elvin Ramirez took the mound with his inability to throw strikes slowing the game down to a crawl (not to mention Ryota Igarashi's lack of control with a 9-0 lead), it almost made me dislike the game of baseball.
More Friday: The one bad thing about the Yankees and Mets playing against each other is that you can't switch to the other game between innings of the one you're watching. You do get to toggle back and forth between Michael Kay/David Cone and Gary Cohen/Ron Darling/Keith Hernandez, though, and get two perspectives of the same game -- and who knew, by the way, that the 1980s Mets would wind up with so many voices of reason in the broadcast booth (and you can throw in Bobby Ojeda, too)? I did find the Graig Nettles Yankeeography to bide my time between innings, featuring those great old 1970s Yankees-Kansas City Royals playoff highlights. Someone needs to write a book about that rivalry -- Nettles and George Brett getting into a fight (with no one getting tossed from the game by the umps -- those were the days), Hal McRae leveling Willie Randolph while breaking up a double play, Chris Chambliss' home run sending the Yankees to their first World Series in 12 years. Anyway, back to Mets-Yankees, and after the first night, it's the Yankees taking a resounding 1-0 lead in the series.
Saturday Evening: Preparations for Saturday night's game involved pulling out my old, flimsy, 25-cent scorecard from the August 17, 1970, Mayor's Trophy Game, which apparently I attended but have no memory of (so yes, I'm old, really, really old). It looks like my older brother kept score for almost half the game and then gave up. Something better must have come along. The Yankees defeated the Mets, 9-4, in that one. Rookie Steve Kline threw a complete game, and first-year Yankees Danny Cater and Pete Ward homered, while Met rookie pitcher Rich Folkers stunk up Yankee Stadium and the young Nolan Ryan didn't fare much better in relief. Not surprisingly, Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Cleon Jones, Donn Clendenon and Bud Harrelson all began the game on the bench. The Yankees were 66-52 heading into the Monday evening contest while the Mets were 63-56. Now, back to 2012, as I snap out of my reverie and find Joe Buck and Tim McCarver yapping at me.
Saturday Night: The Yankees and Mets didn't have rookie pitchers throwing, but their youngish starters, Phil Hughes and Dillon Gee, were both solid. Gee got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first by inducing Raul Ibanez to hit into an inning-ending double play. And he was one hanging curveball to Mark Teixeira away from possibly picking up a win. But Hughes was a little better, only allowing a pair of solo home runs (there's Quintanilla again, one of those rocks). The Mets' bullpen and fielding has been atrocious this season, with their starting pitching and timely, two-out hitting carrying the team, but lately that hitting has failed them, while the Yankees seem to be able to hit a home run at will. I flip to the Stanley Cup Finals, but I'm not sure I can endure Joe Buck and Pierre McGuire all in one night. Earlier I checked out the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, and when Jeff Van Gundy appeared on the screen, I could have sworn it was Phil Silvers (again, I'm old). All games end: Yankees up two games to none in the Subway Series; the New Jersey Devils are making the Los Angeles Kings sweat; and now the nation gets to root for the Oklahoma City Thunder to be this year's Dallas Mavericks.
Sunday: There were no preparations for the Sunday afternoon series closer; all I did was wake up. The young Met lefty outdueled the old Yankee lefty, though neither had much help from their defense, in the 5-4 Yankee win, as Jon Niese's only blemish was a two run, Yankee Stadium wall-scraping home run by Russell Martin after David Wright's throwing error, and Andy Pettitte's runs came sandwiched around a Cano error (with Rottino, that other rock, driving in the first Met run). The Mets' bullpen, defense and base running let them down once again, and though the Yankees countered with a fielding miscue and Rafael Soriano's first blown save since taking over for Mariano Rivera, the Met bullpen, in the form of Jon Rauch, was the grand winner (or loser) in the department of feebleness, as Martin sent everyone home with his second homer of the game (there's that ability to seemingly homer at will again).
The End: The two teams met at a crossroads of their respective seasons, as the Yankees are climbing up in the standings and putting their game together, while the Mets, after last weekend's magic, have now lost six of their last seven games. Usually when these two teams get together, no matter where they are in the standings or how they're playing coming into the series, something memorable or crazy or unbelievable takes place (Luis Castillo, anyone?), but this was a routine, quiet sweep, with sedate crowds and a lack of juice (unless you count the last two innings of buffoonery of Sunday's game). The hot team won, while the downtrodden team couldn't hide their blemishes, as the Mets are learning that using two rocks only gets one so far. So it was just another series. But we get another crack at it in two weeks.