All eyes will focus on Yankee Stadium tonight as the Mets and Yankees resume the Subway Series for the 16th consecutive year. The Yankees lead the all-time series 54-36, including a 49-35 mark in 84 regular season meetings.
The focus should prove especially sharp tonight with Johan Santana on the mound. He is scheduled to make his first start since tossing the Mets’ first no-hitter a week ago. Terry Collins pushed his ace back two days after the 134-pitch effort, putting Santana on six days’ rest tonight.
Whether it’s tonight or at any point this weekend, just remember this when you’re basking in the buzz: The Yankees aren’t about to join you. On the eve of tonight’s series opener, they said the rivalry has basically lost its luster for the players.
“It means more to the fans than it does to us,” said Andy Pettitte, who was there at the beginning in 1997. “To us, it’s another game. It’s another hitter standing in the batter’s box and you’re just trying to make good pitches to him to get him out. But you can no doubt feel the electricity in the air because the fans are so excited about it.”
Both teams enter the series six games over .500 and teetering on the brink of first place. The Yankees (31-25) sit a half-game behind Baltimore and Tampa in the AL East; the Mets (32-26) find themselves just 1 1/2 games behind Washington in the NL East. Despite prolonged DL stints by their starting shortstop, catcher and two-thirds of their outfield, plus a dreadful start by Ike Davis, the Mets have actually scored just eight fewer runs than the Yankees. (Yes, I know: They’ve played two more games.)
Joe Girardi expressed the most excitement about this weekend. He said he hasn’t watched the Mets much, but he’s followed their (relative) success simply because they are the other team in town.
The narratives are vastly different, but their situations mirror one another.
“You look at both divisions and they’re very similar,” Girardi said. “It seems like where you are in the division can change in three days dramatically. I think that makes it interesting, and they’ve played well.”
Despite the clubs sharing similar records, both Pettitte and Curtis Granderson thought the sheer volume of interleague games against the Mets has squeezed some juice from the Subway Series.
“It’s not as exciting as it has been in the past just because of the fact you’re playing six times,” Granderson said.
On Thursday, Pettitte remembered the energy of those first games in 1997. He also remembered when the rivalry peaked in the 2000 World Series. But he said the games have become “old hat” for the players. The Yankees still want to win, he said — much like they’d play to win on a random Tuesday night in Kansas City.
“Unfortunately, the older you are and the longer you do something, for us, as players, we really look at it like another game no matter how excited the fans get about it,” Pettitte said. “We want to win. These games are extremely important to us. We’re going to try to treat this with the same intensity we do every game.”
They also won’t alter their approach against Santana, even given the presumption that Collins won’t push his pitch count. The Mets called this “a normal start” for Santana, who threw his bullpen without issue on Tuesday, so the Yankees will treat it as such.
“He’s pitched extremely well,” Girardi said. “I think his last two outings have been shutouts. He’s throwing the ball well. He got a couple extra days rest because of the high pitch count.
“I don’t want our guys to change their approach. He may have no ill-effects of it. It may not bother him, so I think you have to keep what your approach is.”