Last month, after the Mets won two of three against the Yankees at Citi Field, a lot of my Yankees-fan friends said similar things with the same general notion.

“Oh, it’s just two games, it doesn’t matter. The Subway Series doesn’t matter.”

To be fair, that is partially true. Although, why do I feel like they’d be singing a different tune if the Yankees had taken the series?

The whole notion of the Subway Series being irrelevant is a big oversimplification of what the series represents. Of course, when you play a team six games out of a 162-game season, it really doesn’t matter much.

Sure, there are bragging rights for the fans, as well as love from the Empire State Building, but other than that, both the Mets and the Yankees know that it’s just a three-game series against the crosstown rival that is a blip on the radar compared to division play.

That being said, the argument that the Subway Series means nothing is simply not true. I’m not old enough to remember the times when the Mets were world-beaters and were the pulse of NYC baseball like they were in the ’80s, but I’m not young enough to have lived exclusively in a Yankee-dominant city, either.

The Yankees haven’t always been perennial contenders, yet they have been in every single season since interleague play started in 1997. The Mets have had good teams in those times, but it’s a fact that since interleague play started, the Mets have always been the underdogs, which is fine.

In past years, for better or for worse, the Mets have used the Subway Series as a midseason litmus test, and it’s pretty interesting to look back at how they’ve responded in years past.

For example, in June of 1999, after a second straight loss to the Yankees that was the Mets eighth loss in a row, the Mets fired three coaches (pitching, hitting, and bullpen coach) to try to shake things up. With a record of 27-28, the Mets were in disarray, trying to find their way.

Maybe it was the coaching staff shake-up that got them going, but something about the Subway Series woke up the Amazin’s that year. Including the win in the final game of the series, the Mets went on a 70-38 run to end the season, eventually finishing 97-66 and winning the NL wild card.

On the flip side, the crosstown rivalry epitomized the things to come for the 2009 Mets team, a broken down dilapidated roster full of replacement players, literally and figuratively. Johan Santana getting lit up for one of the worst starts of his career was the icing on the cake, and the Mets season that was already dying was effectively over after that series.

The 2010 Mets team, however, is a healthy, gritty, fundamentally sound team that has shown a fight and a resilience that last year’s squad did not.

After a terrible start to the month of May that had Jerry Manuel’s job status being questioned on a daily basis, they arrived back home to Citi Field on May 21st to start a six-game home stand against the two defending league champions, the Yankees and Phillies.

Although they had played well at home all year, many people didn’t like the Mets chances, especially after a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the first game of the series.

Yet somehow, led by fantastic starting pitching, the Mets are a Major League-best 18-5 since May 22nd, including winning the final two of the Subway Series at Citi Field, and the unforgettable shutout sweep of the Phillies. For whatever reason, the Subway Series seems to have kick-started the Metropolitans again.

There’s really no way to explain it. Like people were saying last month, the Subway Series doesn’t matter in the long-term, it’s only six games. But yet, whether it’s coincidence or not, the Mets have caught fire ever since they played the Yankees at Citi Field last month.

It’s a testament to the character of this Mets team this year. Instead of being intimidated by the defending World Champions, the Mets thrived on the challenge of playing up to their competition.

On May 21st, the Mets were dead last in the tight NL East, three games under .500, looking up at eight teams in the wild-card race as well as all four of their division rivals.

Now, thanks to that 18-5 run and the current seven-game win streak, the Mets find themselves 10 games over .500, half a game behind division-leading Atlanta for the best record in the National League.

The Mets success at Citi Field is well documented, as the Mets 24-10 home record is among the best in baseball. However, even though they’ll be sleeping in their own beds this weekend, this is still a road series at Yankee Stadium, where the Bombers have put up a similar dominant record of 23-9. The Yanks also have the best record overall in the Majors right now, tied with the Rays at 41-25 atop the AL East.

The Mets started extremely poorly on the road, at one point 8-18, before consecutive series sweeps at Baltimore and Cleveland have brought it back up to a respectable 14-18. Still, it’s a tough task to expect the Mets to stay hot against a very good team in a very tough environment.

The next nine games are all against three of the elite teams in the American League, three in the Bronx followed by six games at Citi Field against the Tigers and Twins. It’s a very important stretch for the suddenly scorching Mets, who have won 11 of their last 12 overall.

All they need to do is keep doing what they’ve been doing the past few weeks: Take it one game at a time, get solid outings out of your starting pitchers, play good defense, and hope the offense stays hot in a very hitter-friendly ballpark.

It’s amazing how many twists and turns this season has taken, and we’re not even at the halfway point. Right now, the Mets are riding a wave of momentum, so why stop now?

Hopefully, they’ll just keep the good times going. With both teams playing as well as they are, it should be a very competitive series, and must-see TV for any New York baseball fan.

(This article was originally posted on my personal blog, MetsJetsNetsBlog and can be found here. )

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