ATLANTA — Francisco Lindor knows the Yankees have struggled, based on snippets he catches on TV in the Mets clubhouse.
But as far as the specifics, the shortstop said he doesn’t know much. Told the Yankees aren’t hitting, Lindor could empathize.
“We’re not hitting either,” Lindor said as the Mets prepared to finish a series with the Braves on Thursday.
There you have the bond that connects the outer-borough rivals as they prepare for Round 1 of this season’s Subway Series, which commences Friday at Yankee Stadium.
The Mets will enter as the NL East’s first-place team. The Yankees, meanwhile, are barely above .500 and trying to begin a turnaround that will get them back in the AL East race — they are nine games behind the Red Sox.
Lindor, who was acquired from Cleveland last offseason, is no stranger to big games in The Bronx — with the Indians, he played in two playoff series against the Yankees — but understands this will be different.
For Lindor, part of the excitement stems from playing against Gio Urshela, whom he considers his best friend from their days together with the Indians.
“I talk to Gio a lot, but we don’t really talk about baseball,” Lindor said. “So it’s not like, ‘Hey bro, how is the team doing?’ We talk about how he is doing, about how he is feeling at the time, but most of our conversation, it’s not about games.”
James McCann, who arrived as a Mets free-agent signing over the winter, will join Lindor in getting a taste for the first time of the Subway Series. McCann has some frame of reference from playing with the White Sox, who face the Cubs every season in a heated city rivalry.
“The North Side and South Side Chicago fans don’t mix too well when they get in the stands,” McCann said. “But New York is a whole different level, so I am looking forward to it.”
McCann recalled watching the Yankees and Mets play in the last Subway World Series in 2000. McCann, who was then 10 years old, recalled the disappointment of the series ending in five games. He said he doesn’t remember rooting for either team, but wanted a seven-game World Series.
McCann was asked what names he remembers from the 2000 World Series.
“Mike Piazza, Roger Clemens, obviously all the Yankees guys, how many times they went to the World Series in a row,” McCann said. “But I was just a baseball fan. I loved it.”
Though the Yankees and Mets managed to play six times in last year’s pandemic-shortened season, the fact fans weren’t permitted in the ballpark made it a different kind of event.
Restrictions have now been lifted, allowing for the possibility of a full house for three straight games at Yankee Stadium.
“I hope it will be a fun atmosphere,” said Gerrit Cole, who is scheduled to pitch Saturday against Marcus Stroman. “It’s nice that it is happening over the weekend, get the kids out to the park. And hopefully it will be an electric atmosphere filled with a bunch of New York fans in general. And we’ll put on some good games and hopefully play well.”
Jacob deGrom isn’t scheduled to appear in the series after facing the Braves on Thursday. But the Mets have a solid secondary option to lead off the series in Taijuan Walker, who has pitched to a 2.38 ERA in 14 starts this season.
The right-hander received two extra days of rest for this start, but manager Luis Rojas said he didn’t finagle his rotation with the idea of getting Walker the ball in the Subway Series spotlight.
“We’re not matching up,” Rojas said. “We are just trying to give guys an extra day or two to be smart about keeping the guys fresh out there and that’s where it came from.”
— Additional reporting by Peter Botte
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