Yankees at Mets: Bragging rights and more on the line

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, far left, reacts after recording the third out on a sixth inning ground out by New York Mets Daniel Murphy' (28) in a baseball game in New York, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. (AP Photo)

The first-ever September Subway Series is underway here at Citi Field, where Masahiro Tanaka and Steven Matz comprise the first pitching matchup for what will be a meaningful weekend series, featuring more than just bragging rights on the line.

Playoff picture: The Yankees (80-65) trail the Blue Jays (84-62) by 3 1/2 games in the American League East. Toronto is hosting the Red Sox tonight. The Yankees lead the Astros (77-70) by four games for the first Wild Card spot. Houston is hosting the Athletics.

Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 99 percent chance of making the postseason and a 9.8 percent chance of winning the division.

Lineups

Clubhouse report

New York Yankees' Jacoby Ellsbury bats against Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Yankees’ lineup is more ideally constructed for American League play, especially since Alex Rodriguez accepted the idea of serving as a full-time designated hitter, presenting manager Joe Girardi with some late-inning threats off the bench for this Subway Series at Citi Field.

In addition to Rodriguez, who is expected to serve as a pinch-hitter while receiving some unwanted rest during these Interleague contests, the Yankees fielded a lineup on Friday without Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann against left-hander Steven Matz.

“It’s difficult, but we know that we also have a 17-game stretch here too that we have to worry about,” Girardi said.

Girardi said that the Yankees wanted to find a way to get lefty-crushing outfielder Chris Young in the lineup, offering Ellsbury two consecutive days off with Thursday’s dark day on the schedule. McCann is set to catch Saturday’s day game and again on Sunday.

Ellsbury said that Girardi sent him a text message early on Friday, letting him know about the decision.

“I mean, my whole career I’ve hit lefties well,” Ellsbury said, “but C.Y.’s swinging the bat well against lefties. I’m sure I’ll find my way at some point in this game. I’ve just got to help the team in any way possible, possibly later in the game.”

MLB Network’s three to watch

Tanaka is starting on four days’ rest for the second outing in a row and just the fourth time this year. Tanaka, however, has pitched well on regular rest, with a 2.45 ERA in those four starts — better than his 3.61 ERA in 18 starts on five-or-more days rest.

Matz throws his fastball at an average of 94.4 MPH, matching Chris Sale for the highest average fastball velocity in the Majors among left-handed starters.

Mark Teixeira’s fill-in, Greg Bird, has homered in back-to-back games, giving him five homers in 13 games this month (.644 SLG in September).

Stat so?

The Yankees lead the all-time regular season Subway Series 58-43, and of course, defeated the Mets in five games in the 2000 World Series.

On this date

1956: Mickey Mantle hits his 50th home run of the season in the 11th inning at Comiskey Park, helping to lift the Yankees a 3-2 win over the White Sox.

Quote to note

“All these games are big. The game tomorrow just as big as the game today, and then we’ve got Toronto after this. Those games are just as big. All these games are important. It’s all about winning, helping the team. I’m sure I’ll find my way in there at some point today.” – Ellsbury

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