Phew -- it's been a while, so I won't try to get to everything that's happened in the last few days. In short, the Mets are still winning just enough to keep themselves in first place, while the Yankees are at a stage of their season where every win feels enormously hopeful and every loss is a dagger to the heart. They're 7 1/2 back from the Sox now, but to me, it won't really feel like a race til they cut that to 5. A few salient points from recent games:
-A month or so ago, I was watching a Mets/Yanks game at a bar on the Upper East Side (don't ask), when a pair of young guys next to me asked the bartender to switch a TV over to the Marlins/Tampa Bay game, and proceeded to cheer heartily for the Devil Rays. I was stunned; I had literally never in my life ever encountered a Tampa Bay fan before. It was like having a Yeti sidle up and order a Long Island Iced Tea. Naturally, I made inquiries, and there was actually a logical explanation: they were old high school friends of Devil Rays starting pitcher J.P. Howell. I mention this because Howell started yesterday's 17-5 Yankees win, and I thought of his friends and felt for him... though, to be fair, he only allowed 7 of those runs.
-Wil Nieves is always described as an extremely nice guy, and it's true -- he really is, at least as far as I could tell during spring training. Awfully friendly and genuine, considerate, always smiling. Nevertheless, everyone who ever mentions him brings this up so reliably when discussing his hitting that it's become a sort of "she's got a great personality." The Yankees finally made a trade, and Nieves will be designated for assignment as soon as the new guy shows up; I genuinely wish him good luck and success wherever he lands.
His replacement is one of the dreaded Molina Brothers, Jose, acquired from the much-loathed Angels for a AA pitcher. As I by now instinctively loathe all catching Molinas (Bengie absolutely destroyed the Yankees in the '05 ALDS, while &*%@ing Yadier is the reason I didn't get to cover a World Series this past fall), this will take some getting used to. But I'll try my best... hell, you can't choose your family, right?
-Speaking of which, I'm liking new Yank Shelley Duncan so far, even though he is immediately related to two Cardinals (son of pitching coach Dave and brother of awkward-fielding Chris). He's comically enthusiastic, with some serious power, and while I'm not sure how he'd fare as an every day player, he's got to be better than the hollow shell of Johnny Damon has been so far this year. Poor Damon; such a fun guy to watch when he's going well, and still good-natured even now. He's picked it up the last few days, but then again a tea kettle could have gotten a hit off this Devil Rays pitching staff.
Anyway, at one point the YES cameras showed Alex Rodriguez casually, almost absently explaining something to Duncan, who sat and listened with absolutely hilarious unblinking laser-like intensity. I've rarely seen a human being with their eyes open wider. Rookies are fun.
-Meanwhile, in the "old ineffective ex-Yankee relievers never die..." department: the latest sighting is one Jay Witasick, currently dragging a 9.53 ERA out of the Tampa bullpen. He only pitched half a season for the Yanks, and that was six years ago, so I'm sort of embarrassed that I remember him so clearly. I imagine it's this kind of thing clogging my brain that explains why I never remember to pay the cable bill on time.
I'll catch up with los Mets tomorrow...