As the calendar turns to the month of June it is hard not to take notice as the Major League Baseball standings and begin thinking wild thoughts.
In the AL East the Yankees are 34-15, five-and-a-half games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, the team everyone thought would win this division when Spring Training ended two months ago.
In the NL East, the Mets are 34-17, 10-1/2 games ahead of the defending World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. By all intents and purposes the NL East looks wrapped up — even if this is the Mets, the franchise that defined and re-defined the term “choking.”
And when you have two teams with similar records atop their respective divisions, you can expect similar results. So much so that the Mets trounced the Nationals 10-0 last night at Citi Field, while eight miles northeast at Yankee Stadium, the Bombers did away with the LA Angels 9-1.
Now they are winning games by nearly identical scores.
In the eyes of some, the Mets got here with some smoke and mirrors because they have been without Jacob deGrom all season, and without Max Scherzer for the last two weeks. But that is underselling what the Mets have done this year.
They feature a balanced lineup of veteran players all of whom are playing at an incredibly unselfish pace with guys picking up each other every single night. Pete Alonso is having an MVP-caliber year with 13 homers and 47 RBI (good for second in baseball in that department). Franisco Lindor, much maligned last season, is right there with Alonso in 2022 with a .260 batting average, eight homers and 42 RBI.
Jeff McNeil’s fresh attitude this year has paved the way to a .317 batting average. Brandon Nimmo is no longer a nice, young player, but a solid well rounded hitter who finds ways to get on base.
Not to mention they get enough solid hitting from guys like Starling Marte who has homered in each of the last two games, and Matt Canha, who has been batting at or above .300 all year.
Even the starting pitching has been solid. Tyler Megill impressed before getting hurt. Meanwhile Chris Bassit, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker are proving steady innings every night they toe the rubber for the Amazin’s.
A lot of the Mets momentum in ’22 can be pointed directly at Buck Schowalter, who has steadied a ship in need of balance. He holds guys accountable, and has established a sense of purpose.
Over in the Bronx, the Yankees went from team Yankees fans should be worried about after their sluggish 7-6 start to a team everyone should be worried about having gone 27-9 since.
The Yankees, when hitting on all cylinders look like a juggernaut that can’t be stopped. Aaron Judge is also having a MVP-caliber season; he leads the league in home runs with 18. He also has 38 RBI and a batting average of .303. Add the surge of power the Yankees are getting from Anthony Rizzo (11 HR, 29 RBI); Giancarlo Stanton (11 HR, 35 RBI), and Gleyber Torres (nine HR, 24 RBI), and the Yankees feature a middle of the order that is difficult to navigate.
However, the real reason the Yankees are in this position is their pitching. Of the five starters in the Yankees rotation, only Luis Severino has the highest ERA of the staff at 3.38. That’s how impressive this group has been. Gerrit Cole has turned the corner after a rough start to the year. He is now 4-1 on the year with 3.12 ERA. Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Tallion and Nestor Cortes have enjoyed renaissance seasons.
Cortes has been the most impressive of the group, posting an ERA of 1.70 in nine starts. He has pitched into the eighth inning in three of his last four starts, and has become Must-See-TV.
As for the bullpen, Clay Holmes has been outstanding in the closer role with Aroldis Chapman on the shelf. Holmes has notched six saves and has been lights out with a 0.36 ERA. Clarke Schmidt (0.64 ERA) and Wandy Peralta (2.25 ERA) have both been incredible as well.
So here we are on June 1. The Yankees and Mets are the best two teams in baseball. Dare we dream October dreams? It’s easy to, even though it is early. Really early. The Dodgers, Padres, Brewers, Astros and Angels are all going to have a say in that before it’s all over. But for right now, enjoy the ride — it’s been such a long time.