Adam Ottavino had always wanted to pitch in a Subway Series.
A Brooklyn native who grew up a Yankees fan with Mets-loving parents, Ottavino remembers exactly what was on the line for the city during the 2000 World Series.
“Bragging rights,” Ottavino told the Daily News. “Even if you’re not paying attention [to the season] yet, a lot more people are tuned into this just because something to argue about. And it’s just so unique.”
Ottavino has pitched in a few Subway Series games as a reliever for the Yankees and now for the Mets. Yet the outing that stands out the most for him is the one that went the worst.
Bad innings might stand out more, but this one stood out to Ottavino because it came against the Mets in 2019.
“I pitched well in a few of them, lost a game in one of them,” the right-hander said. “I guess you think more about the losing ones.”
A New York City summer ritual, the Mets and Yankees meeting for two games each at their respective ballparks typically generates some buzz. But on paper, the 2023 Subway Series is lacking some hype.
Pete Alonso and Aaron Judge are both on the shelf. There will be no home run derby of sorts staged this week when the Yankees come to Citi Field for two games Tuesday and Wednesday. The Mets are in a free fall, having lost eight of their last nine games, and the Mets fans hear what the Yankee fans are saying: All that money for a team four games below .500?
It’s not like fans of the pinstripes are in a position to do much talking right now either. The Yankees entered Monday in third place in the AL East behind the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays and it was only a few months ago fans were begging owner Hal Steinbrenner to spend money like Steve Cohen.
But the talk amongst the fans is part of what makes a rivalry series like this fun. It’s part of what makes it feel like “a playoff game without being a playoff game,” as Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor described it.
It’s part of why Ottavino remembered that loss at Citi Field in 2019.
“I remember I gave up a double to J.D. Davis that was a big hit that tied the game,” Ottavino said. “Then Wilson Ramos got a single and that gave them a lead. So we ended up losing a game. And I remember just being exhausted that day. And just being disappointed that I didn’t get the job done.”
He knew what the Mets fans were saying because it was exactly what he was saying as a kid when the Yankees would win a series.
“It was like, ‘The Yankees better win because we’ll never hear the end of it if they don’t,” Ottavino said.
The intrigue and the excitement are still there for the Mets right now, with the team hoping two exciting games against a big opponent can finally jumpstart their season. It’s two chances for their two scuffling aces — right-handers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — to show that they are still two of the best big-game pitchers in the game.
“It’s different every year. It always has a little bit of a different personality depending on what’s going on at the moment and everything with each team,” Ottavino said. “But no matter what, it’s an exciting game. It’s something that you think about when you play in New York because of the opportunity to play for something serious. It’s just a great environment for a game and people are really into it, which is always awesome for the players.”
The 37-year-old veteran is playing a key role for the Mets without Edwin Diaz. Ottavino becomes the primary setup man when the Mets task another former Yankees’ reliever, David Robertson, with the closer duties. Like many others in the overworked Mets’ bullpen right now, Ottavino has struggled as of late, but overall he’s been effective for the Mets as a go-to high-leverage reliever, holding seven leads and pitching in 13 save situations.
Ottavino may not be a fan in the bleachers anymore, but he remains a fan of the game and all of its traditions, which is part of the reason he still gets excited about the Subway Series. When he gets up on a big league mound in his hometown, he thinks of the mound he used to pitch on in Prospect Park.
“I’m just trying to have some fun playing baseball with my friends this summer,” he said. “And win something.”
If only the kid from Park Slope could see him now.
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