Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The first leg of the Subway Series went exactly as expected. Two struggling teams each blew leads in a two-game split and won their respective victories almost in spite of themselves.

The good news for the Yankees is, on top of strong at-bats in both games, key players are awakening. DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton each hit clutch home runs and even Anthony Rizzo is making better contact.

The Mets, on the other hand, needed a ghost runner to win Wednesday. Even worse, they’re now down a player after Drew Smith was ejected for having sticky hands.

Some takeaways:

Mets meltdown. It’s a shame such a talented roster has fallen so far. The Mets won 101 games last year and have just looked overmatched recently. Lighting up Luis Severino for five runs on Tuesday was just a tease before Max Scherzer and his dipping velocity coughed up the lead.

It’s a good thing Justin Verlander turned back the clock and held the Yankees to one run in six innings Wednesday. He’s the one who really prevented a Yankees sweep, not Brandon Nimmo’s walk-off double against journeyman lefty Nick Ramirez.

The Kid turns a corner? Anthony Volpe repaid Hal Steinbrenner and Aaron Boone for believing in him right after #YankeesTwitter demanded he go to the minors. Thanks to a simple switch in his stance, Volpe looked more like the top prospect the fans envisioned. All three of his hits were doubles and Volpe looked more comfortable going to the opposite field too.

Best of all, Volpe was making regular hard contact and putting the ball in play. This doesn’t mean he’ll rake the rest of the year, but hopefully his at-bats won’t be as hard a watch.

The Yankees have to help themselves. The biggest takeaway of all, if we’re being completely honest, is there still being no timetable for Aaron Judge to return. The Yankees won’t get anywhere this season, or in general, unless they learn to win without him. Tuesday’s come-from-behind win was a perfect example of everyone stepping up in his absence.

Aaron Judge is the reigning MVP for a reason, the heart and soul of the Yankees lineup. He’s just that good. But when he’s gone, someone needs to step up and lead the offense. Maybe Harrison Bader can do his part if he’s ready for Boston this weekend.

Until then, the Yankees should prepare for life without Judge. He’s feeling better and could theoretically return soon. But he is so impossible to replace that winning without him is indeed that much harder.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.