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Mets go for Subway Series win in the Bronx

The series shifts to another borough, but the Mets' need for wins is the same.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have been seemingly searching for ways to lose over the past week, but on Tuesday night they had a difficult time with Jacob deGrom pitching seven scoreless innings and Alejandro De Aza combining with Michael Conforto for three extra-base hits and three RBI. Thanks to Cincinnati's comeback win over St. Louis and Miami's loss to the Cubs, the Mets find themselves just a single loss behind the Marlins and Cardinals in the National League Wild Card standings.

Now let's see what happens when this Subway Series shifts to the Bronx for the third and fourth games between the Mets and Yankees this year.

Mets offense

Whoever writes the baseball storylines is going to say that the arrival of Jay Bruce lit a fire under De Aza and Conforto, and that's why they played so well during Bruce's first game on Tuesday. With the outfield roster even more crowded than before, the trade for Bruce is supposed to send both De Aza and Conforto to the bench or worse, but during the 7-1 victory, both players were in the starting lineup while veterans Curtis Granderson and Yoenis Cespedes began the game on the bench.

Terry Collins will no doubt be writing Jay Bruce into the lineup every day, but it will be interesting to see how he juggles the rest of the outfielders going forward. Cespedes is still the best hitter of the bunch, but his battle with his injured quad is growing increasingly serious. In the short term, the obvious solution is to let Cespedes be the designated hitter during New York's upcoming American League road trip, but after that he'll need to feel well enough to play the field in order to crack the starting lineup.

Even if Cespedes's injury heals properly, there's still the question of what to do with center field. De Aza appears to be the only proper center fielder on the roster even though Granderson regularly played there in the past. With De Aza's bat finally coming alive, will Collins let him play center field more often, or will he just be a defensive replacement for whoever else is deemed worthy to play the position?

That guy might be Conforto, as the Mets were toying with the idea of him playing center before the trade deadline. Putting the youngster out there, however, would take a starting spot away from Granderson, who has more experience and has been the better hitter overall this season. If the Mets decide to use Granderson more often in center, Conforto might be better off spending August in the minor leagues working on his game than riding the bench in Queens.

However the Mets handle the situation, it is sure to draw criticism from fans, but we have to have faith that the front office had some kind of plan in mind when they decided to trade two prospects for Bruce on August 1. The situation is only going to grow more complicated if Bruce has more games like Tuesday's, when he went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.

Yankees offense

Although the Yankees got a lot of deserved praise for unloading some contracts and bringing in young assets at the trade deadline, the infamous club is still stuck holding the bag on a number of expensive deals. Perhaps the most concerning is the one held by Jacoby Ellsbury, who is signed for the next four years and might still be bothered by a knee injury he suffered in 2015.

Although Ellsbury still has the kind of contact and walk rates at age 32 that you want from a top-of-the-order hitter, it's hard to ignore the way his power and speed have declined since he came to the Yankees in 2014. During his first year in pinstripes, Ellsbury made a great impression with 16 home runs, 39 stolen bases, and a 108 wRC+, but last year he incurred the knee injury and hit just seven home runs while stealing 21 bases in 111 games with a 83 wRC+. This season, those figures are four home runs, 17 stolen bases and a 90 wRC+ in 97 games.

It's a positive sign that Ellsbury is still willing to run at his age, but on the other hand, he has been caught stealing 17 times over the past two seasons. And then there's the contract. Will he still be a productive baserunner when he's 35 and 36 years old, or will Ellsbury turn into the type of albatross that has become typical of recent Yankees rosters? Just look at what Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have done this year. It's not pretty.

Contacts like those ones are why the Yankees so desperately needed to get younger this year, and they accomplished that goal with a revamp of their entire farm system. In the not-so-distant future, we'll probably look at the trades of Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova and say those are the moves that saved this franchise from disaster.

Probable pitchers

Date Time Television Mets Probable Starter Yankees Probable Starter
August 3, 2016 7:05 PM SNY, ESPN Steven Matz Chad Green
August 4, 2016 7:05 PM SNY, MLBN Bartolo Colon Nathan Eovaldi
Chad Green

Important stats: 23.2 IP, 27 K, 6 BB, 7 HR, 4.56 ERA, 5.46 FIP, 1.18 WHIP

Favorite pitches: four-seam fastball (94 mph), slider (84 mph), cutter (90 mph)

Green is only pitching on Wednesday because the scheduled starter Ivan Nova was traded away to Pittsburgh on Monday. Still, Green is capable of some surprisingly solid pitching when he's not giving up home runs. In fact, six of the seven long balls he's given up have come in just two games, with four of them coming in Green's most recent start at Cleveland on July 8. Since then, the right-hander has pitched well in long relief, and he'll hope to make this upcoming outing look a lot like the one he had in San Diego on July 3, when he struck out eight batters in six innings while allowing just one run.

Mets opponent: Steven Matz is just as young as Green, but he has a lot more experience, and that should come in handy as the Mets send their favorite lefty to the hill in a crucial road game. The 25-year-old has pitched pretty well lately with just two runs yielded in his last 12 innings, and the lineup that he's about to face is loaded with lefties. Though you wouldn't know it by looking at his ERA or listening to concerns about his elbow, Matz has been a better pitcher this year than last thanks to a lower walk rate and higher ground ball rate.

Nathan Eovaldi

Important stats: 116.2 IP, 92 K, 38 BB, 21 HR, 4.78 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.34 WHIP

Favorite pitches: Four-seam fastball (97 mph), splitter (88 mph), slider (86 mph)

The book on Eovaldi is the same as it's ever been. He throws really hard, but doesn't miss many bats. The high amount of home runs he's giving up this year seem to be a new phenomenon, though. Even though he was also pitching at Yankee Stadium last year, Eovaldi only gave up 10 home runs in 154.1 innings. This season, the right-hander might give up 30 if he keeps making starts until the end of the year. The good news for Yankees fans is that Eovaldi has been much more effective during July than he was in June, when he gave up 25 runs in 26 innings.

Mets opponent: Throughout July, Bartolo Colon alternated terrific starts with lousy ones, so we're on schedule for some brilliant pitching on Thursday night in the Bronx. Even though his start-to-start performance may be erratic, the sexy right-hander's overall stats are very consistent with what he did last year. It's only a matter of time before we start wondering if the Mets can squeeze one more year out of the aging yet marketable star.

Bullpens

The appearance of Jon Niese at the end of the game on Tuesday was a sign that the Mets are eager to make use of their returning southpaw. With him and Josh Edgin both in the fold and Seth Lugo headed back to the minors, it might seem like Niese is now the long man while Edgin is a second lefty specialist. Given the issues that Edgin has had with his control in Las Vegas, however, it wouldn't be surprising to see Niese handed the ball in some tough spots down the stretch.

The Yankees may have traded away some pretty awesome bullpen arms, but they also added a pair in Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard. Both newcomers (both in their second stint with the Yankees) proved valuable in holding the Mets scoreless on Monday until Dellin Betances came in to slam the door. The 28-year-old with lights-out stuff earned just the 11th save of his career that night, but there will probably be a lot more to come if the Yankees are interested in locking him up with a long-term deal. Given his 15.78 strikeouts per nine innings and the city's love of home-grown players, I'd say that sounds like a pretty good idea.

Prediction: Mets sweep the final two games against the Yankees.

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