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5 things to watch as Mets face Yankees in Subway Series in the Bronx

July 7, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch against the San Diego Padres during the fifth inning at Petco Park. / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Here are five things to watch as the Mets face the Yankees in the final two games of this year’s Subway Series starting on Tuesday night in the Bronx…

1. Pham’s return?

After missing all three games of this weekend’s series at Fenway Park, Tommy Pham is expected to be back in the lineup for Tuesday night’s opener against the Yanks.

Pham left Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Chicago White Sox after retweaking his groin injury. While an MRI came back clean, like his prior injury, Buck Showalter said the team would be cautious with the outfielder.

Pham, of course as mentioned above, did not make an appearance this weekend. He has been working his way back towards a return and was available off the bench in Sunday night’s series finale.

If all continues to go as planned, it seems like he’ll be ready to roll for this series. Prior to the injury, Pham was one of the top contributors for the Mets offense, hitting nine homers and 15 doubles while posting a .831 OPS.

2. Vintage Verlander?

It’s been a bit of an up and down first year in Queens for Justin Verlander.

After taking home the AL Cy Young award last season with the Astros, he posted a 3.47 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts through 14 outings.

Verlander has had his rough patches, but he seems to be settling into a groove. While he’s still looking below his standards at times, as evidenced by 13 walks over his last five starts, he’s pitched to a 1.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over that span.

In his most recent outing against the White Sox, Verlander was in complete control from the get go. He was cruising, and looked headed for a complete game, if not for one slight hiccup on a homer to slugger Luis Robert.

Verlander finished the night allowing just one run on three hits while striking out seven over eight stellar innings. He’ll look to build off that strong outing and keep rolling in the opener against the Yankees.

Earlier this season against the same Bombers lineup, he allowed just one run on three hits while striking out six across six innings.

July 19, 2023;  Anaheim, California, USA;  New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
July 19, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (55) throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the third inning at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports / © Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

3. Rodon’s rough start

Carlos Rodon has not quite gotten off to the start in his Yankee tenure most had hoped for.

After signing a six-year, $162 million deal in free agency, the lefty landed on the injured list due to forearm and back issues to begin the season. He missed the first few months but eventually was able to get back on a mound.

After making a handful of strong minor league rehab starts, he appeared ready to get back out there. However, upon returning, Rodon has struggled atop the Yankees’ rotation.

He’s passed the fifth inning just once and has allowed 12 runs and four homers while issuing nine walks across his first three starts back. Rodon’s posted a 7.36 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over his first 14.2 innings as a Yankee.

The hard-throwing left-hander simply has not looked like himself.

Things have gotten so bad that frustration began to boil over during his latest start. Rodon issued five walks and allowed six runs across 4.1 innings against the Angels, and as he was walking to the dugout after one inning, he blew a kiss to heckling Yankee fans.

The Yankees are certainly hoping their big money free-agent signing returns to form soon. He’ll look to do that against Jose Quintana in the second game on Wednesday.

4. Lindor crushes the Yanks

Francisco Lindor has loved hitting against the Yankees in his MLB career.

The star shortstop has posted a .309 average to go along with a .390 OBP, .938 OPS, 13 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, and 22 RBI against the Bombers. Five of those homers have come in the hitter friendly confines of Yankee Stadium.

Lindor, who was surging heading into the All-Star break, has gotten off to a bit of a rough start in the second half. He’s just 3-for-26 over his last seven games with two RBI and a .154 slugging percentage.

After his hot streak, though, he still performed well enough to rank among the top of the shortstop leaderboards with 19 homers, 62 RBI, and 14 stolen bases.

Perhaps these two games in the Bronx can help Lindor get back in a groove.

5. Rizzo looks to build off a strong day

With Aaron Judge still residing on the injured list with a torn ligament in his right toe, it’s been a bit of a rough go for Anthony Rizzo and the Yankees offense.

The Bombers have been struggling mightily and they’ve fallen all the way to last place in the AL East, behind the rival Red Sox.

The offense has been slumping as a unit, but things have been extremely frustrating for Rizzo, in particular. Heading into Sunday’s series finale against the Royals, the slugger hadn’t homered since late May and he was hitting .186 over his last 15 games.

Rizzo finally decided enough was enough as he enjoyed his strongest performance of the season to help secure the 8-5 win. He finished a triple shy of the cycle after going 4-for-4 with a solo homer, two singles, and a double.

Rizzo and the Yanks certainly needed a day like that.

He’s now hitting .253 on the season with 14 doubles, 12 homers, 41 RBI, and a .736 OPS. He’ll look to build off that strong performance against the Mets, whom he has 16 doubles, 17 homers, and .962 OPS against in his career.

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