Jun 22, 2012
By Raimundo Ortiz
Two Fridays ago, the Yankees drubbed their crosstown rival Mets 9-1 at Yankee Stadium. They launched four home runs, including back-to-back-to-back jacks from Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Andruw Jones, and chased Mets ace Johan Santana off the hill after five innings.
That beat down, and the sweep that followed, was the beginning of a 10-game rampage through the National League East during which the Bronx Bombers didn’t lose once. The Atlanta Braves managed to cool the Yankees down a bit with wins on Tuesday and Wednesday, but a statement was made.
The Yankees’ bats had officially come to life.
The Mets were not discouraged by the sweep they suffered. They got up, dusted themselves off, and swept the Tampa Bay Rays, who at the time were in first place in the American League East. During their sweep they slaughtered the Rays’ lefty ace David Price and smacked around reigning American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson.
Following their dominance over Tampa Bay, they hit a rough patch against the Cincinnati Reds before sweeping another A.L. East foe, the Baltimore Orioles.
To tally it up, the Yankees are riding into Citi Field at a cool 10-2 in inter-league play over the past two weeks, while the Mets are 6-3 against the American League, and 6-6 overall during that stretch.
The leading story for both teams since they last met has been exceptional pitching. The Yankees rotation as a whole has been lights out during their 10-2 run, but nobody on the Yanks, or in all of baseball, has been as dazzling as Mets’ knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
The knuckleball is a traditionally erratic pitch that is as hard to control as it is to hit. Knuckleballers usually need personal catchers who are used to handling that fluttering bane of batters’ existence. But not Dickey. He is sporting a 2.00 ERA heading into this weekend, and on average striking out a ridiculous nine batters per game while only walking one.
Oh and by the way, he just authored back-to-back one-hitters.
Dickey has tossed three complete games in 2012, despite only having four such efforts from 2001-2011. He has stopped losing streaks dead in their tracks several times this year, and combined with Santana to form what might be baseball’s most unexpectedly dominant 1-2 punch.
They will need even more brilliance from Dickey on Sunday, when he faces the Yankees’ top gun CC Sabathia in a Sunday night showcase on ESPN. Sabathia is a big-game pitcher, and fresh off a complete-game throttling of Atlanta where he struck out 10 Braves.
Sunday’s sizzle aside, the two games preceding it offer interesting matchups too. On Friday, the Yankees will trot out their grizzled left-hander Andy Pettitte against Jonathon Niese, a young lefty with big stuff and one of the filthiest curveballs in the sport. The Yankees got to Niese in their last meeting, but he has been a different pitcher this season at Citi Field. Opponents are hitting .197 against him at home, as opposed to .272 on the road, and he has served up seven home runs away from Citi Field, compared to four at home.
On Saturday, Ivan Nova will put his sparkling 9-2 record up against Chris Young. Nova’s record obscures some ugly underlying stats such as a 4.32 ERA and a 16 percent home run to fly ball ratio. Nova’s been spectacular in the month of June, giving up a mere two runs in three starts, but had surrendered five or more runs in five of his 10 outings prior to the beginning of June.
Friday’s game will be televised at 7:00 p.m. on My9 for the Yankees fans and CW11 for those who want to tune into the Mets broadcast. Saturday they will meet up again at 7:15 on Fox, and Sunday’s matchup between dueling aces will be on ESPN at 8:00. As usual, all games can be heard on WCBS 880 for the Yankees and WFAN 660 for the Mets.
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