The middle game of a three-game September series between intracity rivals competing for playoff spots offers plenty of compelling storylines.
However, baseball will be secondary on Saturday night when the New York Mets host the New York Yankees following a tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks exactly 20 years earlier.
Taijuan Walker (7-9, 4.15 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Mets against Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.69) in a battle of right-handers.
The Mets snapped a two-game losing streak Friday by cruising to a 10-3 win in the series opener.
The Mets (71-71) moved within four games of the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres in the chase for the second wild-card spot in the National League and remained five games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
The loss Friday was the seventh straight and the 11th in the past 13 games for the Yankees (78-63), who remained a half-game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the race for the second American League wild-card spot.
A sellout crowd is expected Saturday at Citi Field, where the game will be preceded by a remembrance ceremony honoring the 2,977 people killed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa., during the terror attacks.
The Mets will wear the hats of first responders, just as the 2001 team did following the attacks. The first pitch will be thrown out by 2001 Mets manager Bobby Valentine and caught by 2001 Yankees manager Joe Torre.
“It’ll be an honor for us to play a game on such a memorable weekend against the opponent we share a city with — the backdrop of where everything happened 20 years ago,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Thursday. “Hopefully something that we’re able to honor as Yankees, as Mets and as an industry of baseball in honoring a dark chapter in our history. And hopefully we do right by that.”
Valentine and a trio of his players from the 2001 Mets — John Franco, Al Leiter and Todd Zeile — visited a Manhattan firehouse Thursday. On Friday, current Mets pitchers Rich Hill and Noah Syndergaard visited with firemen and their children at a firehouse in Queens.
“Obviously, (Saturday) is a difficult day for everybody,” said Hill, who was a college student at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2001. “It’s an honor to be able to come out here and just bring a smile and see the kids and bring a smile to the kids’ faces and talk some baseball.”
Neither Walker nor Kluber factored into the decision in their most recent starts Sunday. Walker gave up six runs over 4 1/3 innings in the Mets’ 13-6 win over the Washington Nationals. Kluber allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings as the Yankees fell 8-7 to the Baltimore Orioles.
Walker is 1-3 with a 3.24 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees, including a win on July 3 when he limited the Yankees to two runs on two hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Kluber is 1-1 with a 6.55 ERA in two starts against the Mets — a win in 2013 and a loss in 2016.
–Field Level Media