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Rare last-place feat hangs over Mets, Yankees in telling indictment

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For 5 hours and 13 minutes, as Sunday afternoon segued toward Sunday evening, we were a city with two last-place baseball teams thanks to a couple of miraculous ninth innings that took place 1,050 miles away from each other and five minutes removed from each other. 

First, at 4:44 p.m., a Washington National named Jeter Downs blooped one just beyond the reach of the infielders at Nationals Park, scoring old friend Dominic Smith and capping a six-run ninth inning that helped the Nats rally to an 8-7 win over the Athletics. That ensured that the Nats would crawl into a virtual tie with the Mets at the bottom of the NL East, actually a few percentage points ahead of them. 

So at 4:44 the Mets officially became a last-place team. Five shocking minutes later, inside Miami’s loanDepot Park, the Yankees solidified their position at the bottom of the AL East when the Marlins’ Jake Burger smoked a line drive to left off Tommy Kahnle, capping a remarkable five-run ninth inning and giving the Fish their own hard-to-fathom 8-7 win. 

At a time in the summer when we generally believed both the Mets and Yankees would be chasing history, they were doing just that, only the kind of history that you want to treat like a Russian textbook, written in invisible ink, the better to more easily forget. 

Because those 5 hours and 13 minutes — until the Mets held off the Braves, 7-6, at Citi Field — presented a most remarkable development. The Mets and the Yankees have officially shared the city for 22,406 days. On only one of those days — Aug. 5, 1967 — have they each owned sole possession of last place after Aug. 1. On one other day, according to Elias Sports Bureau, they were both also last but the Yankees were tied with the Kansas City Athletics for last; that was two days later, on Aug 7, 1967. 


Aaron Judge reacts after striking out during the Yankees' loss to the Marlins on Aug. 13.
Aaron Judge reacts after striking out during the Yankees’ loss to the Marlins on Aug. 13.
AP

The next day the Yankees beat the Angels, 8-4 — despite a 3-for-4 effort from future New York baseball antagonizer Jim Fregosi — and that was the last time the Yankees visited last place that late in the season until 1990. 

And that was it. Twice in 22,406 days. And when the Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the Mets on Sunday night — making the overall score Braves 37, Mets 3 since Friday — it sure seemed like we were going to see the teams go to bed sharing separate rooms in baseball’s cellar for the first time in 56 years, plus six days. 

The Mets, alas, wanted no part of that dubious storyline. 

(At least for now … ) 

But it is hard to believe, the more we see both teams play, that this will be the last time we talk about this particular nugget. The Mets are still only a half-game ahead of the Nats and the Nats are playing with the carefree ease of a team that hasn’t had an ounce of pressure on it in four years while every game for the Mets feels like a referendum on whether they still even care to play any longer. 

The Yankees? 


NY Post illustration

Well, look, we’re starting to see something about the Yankees that mimics what we saw with the Mets at this time last month: the standings insist that pie-eyed Yankees fans can channel “Dumb and Dumber” all they want — “you mean there’s a chance?” — while the brand of baseball they continue to play renders that notion as … well, dumb and dumber. 

And Sunday was simply the coup de grace, a chance to take a series against a winning team for the first time since June blowing up like a quick-wick M80 on the Fourth of July, pushing them five games out in the wild-card chase and — more pertinent to this subject — two full games behind the Red Sox in the AL East basement with three games against the pinball-machine offense of the Braves looming before the Sox come to town next week in a heated battle for fourth place. 

In case you were wondering about the state of The Rivalry, let’s hear it from “Mad Men” character Pete Campbell: “Not great, Bob!!) 


Kodai Senga reacts during the Mets' win over the Braves on Aug. 13.
Kodai Senga reacts during the Mets’ win over the Braves on Aug. 13.
Corey Sipkin for the NY Post

That applies to the city’s dragging nines and flagging baseball season, too. Perhaps this day may have ended without the teams languishing in last place. But there will be other days ahead. 

Plenty of other days. 

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