Mets-Yankees: New York hasn't seen series like this in a long time

NEW YORK — The Mets are closing in on their first trip to the playoffs since 2006, when both they and the Yankees went 97-65. It also is the first time since the Mets advanced out of the division series that year, and the Yankees did not, that the team from Queens has a better chance to win the World Series.The Mets’ uprising has led to a predictable narrative, exemplified by Monday’s story in The New York Times, “As Mets Rise, a City Starts to Change Its Pinstripes.” It’s not actually true — there are not scores of Yankees fans converting to Mets fandom, though fans who root for both teams — who do exist — have plenty of reason to be more intrigued by the Mets at the moment. MORE: Greatest moments in Mets-Yankees historyThe Mets are a revived team, seemingly reaping the karmic payback for all the bad things that have happened to them since Carlos Beltran — now on the Yankees, coincidentally – struck out to end the 2006 NLCS at Shea Stadium. Where once two people in Mets hats might exchange a sigh on the street, now it’s a smile — and there are more smiles to go around as Mets fans wear their colors without the hesitation that comes with feeling lousy every time they look in a mirror. “You see a lot more Mets gear out there, and it’s fun,” said Mets left-hander Jon Niese. “It’s fun to watch and fun to see all the fans coming out, how excited they are for us doing so well. It makes you want to do well all the time. It definitely helps.”The turnaround is clear, even to visitors.“It’s a different vibe, for sure,” Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton told Sporting News as his team visited Flushing this week. “You can feel it in here. It’s always a good atmosphere here, but now it’s kind of an awaiting-next-month atmosphere. It becomes that coming to the game is an event. You want to see the top-tier teams play, and fans come together, families come together, to see that. When your team’s clicking, when you can get that type of play on the field, it does wonders everywhere.”The Yankees, last in the playoffs in 2012, likely are headed for a one-game wild-card playoff and their fans are understandably fatalistic about what might happen in October. A fanbase accustomed to the swagger of an odds-on favorite is uncomfortable in an underdog role. It’s normal and explainable.Subjectively, the Mets are a more fun team to watch, with elite young starting pitching and a lineup that has been transformed from one of the worst in baseball in July to one of the best since not only the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, but the debut of Michael Conforto and the return of David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud from injury. The Yankees, on the other hand, lost Mark Teixeira for the season with a broken leg, and their starting rotation is beset by inconsistency.Still, both teams are trying to punch their ticket to October, and as they open a series on Friday that is later in the regular season than the Big Apple rivals have ever met, it will be like nothing New York has seen for a long time.“It’s gonna be fun,” said Niese, whose rotation spot does not come up this weekend. “All the circumstances around the games, around the series, they’re pretty substantial. … This team is a lot different than what it was when we faced them earlier this

year, so it will be interesting to see how we attack them.”The Mets lost two of three to the Yankees in April, at a time when Eric Campbell was the No. 6 hitter in their lineup, a spot usually filled lately by d’Arnaud, who has a .911 OPS in 54 games this year. “A lot different” might be an understatement.The transformation has Mets fans thinking beyond the Subway Series, to whether they might be able to clinch the National League East title by the end of their current homestand on Wednesday. At least, those Mets fans not panicking about having lost back-to-back games to Miami, and seeing their lead shrink to 7 ½ games, are thinking about it. The Mets themselves know that the possibility is there.“I think when the magic number creeps closer, the more fans will come out here,” Niese said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time right now, and if we clinch here, that would be great. … What we want is just being able to clinch, period.”