Shades of 1986: Mets and Yankees Close April on Top

It is a good year to be a New York baseball team. As a slightly truncated April came to a close on Saturday, the Yankees had the best record in the American League at 15-6 and the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for the best record in the National League at 15-7.

While not without precedent, the sight of both New York teams on top of their respective leagues at the end of April has been rare in the 61 seasons that the Mets and Yankees have coexisted. The last time it happened was 1986 — a year that turned out pretty well for the Mets. The only other time it occurred was 1976, when the Yankees closed April with a 10-3 record (eventually going on to lose the World Series) while the Mets were pacing the N.L. at 13-7 (they eventually failed to make the playoffs).

Of course, leading your league in April isn’t everything. In 2000, the Yankees were 15-8 at the end of April, a game behind Cleveland, and the Mets were 16-10, three games behind Atlanta. The New York teams ended up facing each other that October in the Subway Series, with the Yankees capturing the team’s third consecutive championship.

As for this year, the restocked Mets have had phenomenal pitching — Friday’s no-hitter was a team effort in the truest sense — while the Yankees’ batters have mostly pounded their way to victory. But the Bombers closed April with an odd one, beating the Kansas City Royals, 3-0, on Saturday in a game in which the runs were scored on a double-play grounder and two sacrifice flies.

“When you want to be a complete team and a really good one, you have to find ways at times to win in different ways,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the quirky victory.

Overall, the Yankees have had the A.L.’s best record entering May 1 seven times since 1962, according to Baseball Reference, while the Mets have paced the N.L. four times. Before that, the Yankees had the top April record in the A.L. 18 times from 1903 to 1961. In seven of those 18 seasons, the top April team in the N.L. was either the Brooklyn Dodgers or the New York Giants.

Now the trick for both of the New York teams is to extend their hot starts. The Yankees are starting May with a road game on Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, while the Mets are scheduled to face the Philadelphia Phillies at home in a Sunday night rubber match in which the Mets are trying to win a series for the seventh straight time to start the season.

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