Circle those days on the old pages of your wall calendar. Use the brightest-color ink you have. Use a magic marker if you have one. In a New York baseball season filled with highlights — even if they’ve been hard to remember in the aftermath of the cruelties of October — those were the summer’s two high-water marks.
July 8 for the Yankees.
Sept. 1 for the Mets.
July 8 the Yankees walked off the field at Fenway Park after obliterating their ancient rivals from Boston, 12-5. That Friday night they had honored the wishes of their first great owner, Col. Jacob Ruppert, who once said, “My favorite days are when the Yankees score eight runs in the first inning and slowly pull away.”
The Yankees had to settle for four in the first that night, but it was 9-2 by the fourth and they were having a grand old time in enemy territory. Matt Carpenter hit a home run, his eighth in his first 14 games as a Yankee. Josh Donaldson bashed a three-run homer. Aaron Hicks had two hits. Joey Gallo had a triple and two RBIs.
You get the picture: everybody was on fire, so it didn’t even matter that Nestor Cortes had one of his few troubled starts of the year, lasting only 3 ²/₃ innings.
“We’re incredible,” Giancarlo Stanton gushed. “We find ways to win, nonstop. We stay hungry. It doesn’t matter how far ahead we are or what obstacle’s in front of us, we keep pushing. We’re gonna go into the second half and do the same.”
They were incredible. The win put them at an otherworldly 61-23 for the season, 15 ½ games up in the AL East, 5 ½ games clear of the Astros, on a 118-win pace. They did everything well: hit, pitch, field, run. They got contributions from everyone. There was talk that they might be the best Yankees team of all time.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but I love that we built up this lead,” Aaron Boone said. “We’ve made a lot of deposits. Inevitably, we’ve got to make some withdrawals along the way.”
It sounded like Boone was merely doing what Lou Holtz used to do at Notre Dame, warning that just because Navy was a 37-point underdog, anything can happen …
Sept. 1, the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, 5-3, in front of 36,908 spirited fans at Citi Field. It gave the Mets a series win against the best team in baseball, as well as a 4-3 advantage in the season series. The Mets were firing on all pistons: hitting in the clutch every day, great pitching every day (six strong from Chris Bassitt in this one, a day after Jacob deGrom had thrown seven three-hit innings vs. L.A.).
Their lead over the Braves was only three games, but the Mets were playing their best baseball of the season, sitting at 84-48, a 104-win pace. Better still: September would be littered with games against the Nats, the Cubs, the Pirates and the Marlins. It was the easiest schedule in baseball. And they were rolling.
“That,” Francisco Lindor said inside a triumphant Mets clubhouse, “was a playoff vibe.”
Still, on the other side of the room, Max Scherzer sounded the same subtle alarm Boone had two months earlier: “There’s a completely different vibe once it’s win-or-go-home. And we’re not there yet …”
In the afternoon, the scorching-hot Phillies closed out the Padres, advancing to the World Series for the first time in 13 years. Late in the evening, the Astros grabbed a set of brooms and swept the Yankees out of the postseason as if they were a pile of pinstriped dust bunnies. On July 8, the 118-win-pace Yankees wouldn’t have fathomed this. Neither would the 104-win-pace Mets on Sept. 1.
The peaks were glorious. But they happened too soon. In the postseason the Phillies are on a 133-win pace, the Astros on a 162-win pace. October peaks matter most.
“We know what can happen,” Boone had warned at Fenway.
“The postseason is a different animal,” Scherzer had cautioned at Citi.
The Yankees will always have July 8. The Mets will always have Sept. 1. Both would rather have had Oct. 23. Or anywhere from Nov. 1 to Nov. 5, for that matter. On one of those nights will come the peak peak.
This story originally appeared on NYPost