NEW YORK -- Perhaps a mingle with the American League is just what the Mets need.
One year ago at this time, the Mets were struggling to compete, unable to win on the road and falling out of the early playoff hunt. Then came Interleague Play and an extended run of success for the Mets, who peaked a half-game out of first place before falling back to the pack against National League foes.
That's not to say they can expect similar success this season. Their non-Yankees opponents -- the Angels, A's, Rangers and Tigers -- all expect to compete for division titles this summer, a far cry from the Orioles and Indians teams that faced the Mets last season. Then there is the matter of the Yankees, the only AL team to win a series against them a year ago.
But the Yankees have struggled recently amidst drama with their core players, while the Mets have been playing relatively well. A series win in the Bronx this weekend could lay the foundation for another run of Interleague success, perhaps even drawing the Mets back within striking distance of the Phillies in the NL East.
With the Mets currently banged up, playing with a designated hitter in Yankee Stadium may not work to their advantage -- depending on the matchups, it could give Nick Evans or Willie Harris some extra at-bats, not necessarily providing the team with much additional thump. But the Mets should be healthy -- or healthier, at least -- by the time they return to AL parks in late June.
If nothing else, this weekend's debut series promises entertainment. It was just last month that former Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano publicly called out his old team, saying that he planned on striking out Mets first baseman Ike Davis during the Subway Series. Both Feliciano and Davis will be on the disabled list this weekend, but that won't stop the inevitable emotion from shining through.
In recent years, this rivalry has featured Luis Castillo's dropped popup, Jason Bay's breakout game and Francisco Rodriguez's public spat with Brian Bruney, among so many other memorable moments. Six more games against the Yankees should feature some new ones.
And a dozen additional Interleague games may just help jumpstart the Mets.
Last year: Interleague Play was kind to the Mets, who did not win a single road series until sweeping the Orioles and Indians in June. By the time the Mets capped their Interleague slate with a 12-6 record, they sat just a half game out of first place -- the closest they would come for the rest of the summer.
All-time: Quite average since the dawn of Interleague Play, the Mets have posted a .515 winning percentage in 229 games against American League opponents.
vs. Yankees, May 20-22, July 1-3: The Mets are 33-45 all-time against their inter-borough rivals, with a 15-24 overall record in the Bronx and a 2-4 mark at the new Yankee Stadium. But they have improved lately, posting a 21-21 record against the Yankees over the last seven years. None of the 109 players who have played for both teams are currently active with either club.
vs. Angels, June 17-19: The Angels will make their second trip to Flushing and their first to Citi Field. The Mets are 5-4 all-time against them in a series dating back to 2003.
vs. Athletics, June 21-23: Not since 2007 have the Mets faced the A's, sweeping them in three games at Shea Stadium. This will be the third meeting between the two clubs.
at Rangers, June 24-26: The Mets will travel to Arlington for the first time since 2003, when they took two of three from the Rangers. These teams have met just one other time, in a 2008 series at Shea.
at Tigers, June 28-30: Welcoming the Tigers to Citi Field for the first time last summer, the Mets won two of three. This year's meeting in Detroit will allow Mets manager Terry Collins to travel to his home state of Michigan, while also reuniting him with his old mentor, Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Players to Watch:
Carlos Beltran, OF (.281, 28 HR, 114 RBIs in Interleague Play): No Met has clubbed more Interleague home runs than Beltran, who has hit 13 of his 28 long balls since joining the Mets in 2005.
Jason Bay, OF (.261, 16 HR, 53 RBIs): Keep an eye out for the slumping Bay. Though his overall Interleague numbers are nothing spectacular, Bay hit .327 with three homers in 17 such games with the Mets last season.
R.A. Dickey, RHP (5-3, 5.67 ERA): Don't buy into the overall numbers. Dickey, who will start Friday's Interleague opener against the Yankees, was 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts against American League opponents last year.
Chris Capuano, LHP (5-4, 5.34 ERA): Keeping traffic off the basepaths has been a problem for Capuano this season. Historically, he has fared no better in Interleague play, sporting a 1.69 WHIP in 64 innings.