As if the Subway Series needed any more juice.
Tonight, Johan Santana takes the hill for the first time since throwing the first no-hitter in the history of the New York Mets, as they begin a three- game interleague series with the Yankees in the Bronx.
Santana cemented his place in team history last Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals with an amazing 134-pitch performance. Making his outing even more remarkable is the fact that the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery.
That, along with the fact that Santana had never thrown that many pitches and had tossed a four-hit shutout his previous time out, led Mets manager Terry Collins to give his ace a few extra days of rest.
"That extra day is always good," said Santana, who is 3-2 on the year with a 2.38 ERA. "I know my body very well, so I know if something is not right, I'll let him know. I'm not going to do anything crazy."
Of course, Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer is the only player in major league history to throw back-to-back no-hitters way back in 1938.
He has faced the Yankees 13 times (10 starts) and is 5-3 with a 4.18 ERA.
The Mets picked up a much-needed win on Thursday in Washington. R.A. Dickey improved to 9-1, as he held the Nationals scoreless through 7 1/3 innings in the Mets' 3-1 win.
"The thing that I care most about is giving our team a chance to win," said Dickey, who has not allowed a run over his last 24 1/3 innings. "I've said that from day one."
Frank Francisco allowed a leadoff home run to Ryan Zimmerman in the ninth, but retired the next three batters to earn his 15th save of the season for the Mets, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
While the Mets avoided a sweep on Thursday, the Yankees failed to complete one and in the process missed out on a chance of grabbing first place in the American League East, as they fell to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-3.
CC Sabathia (7-3) allowed five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits over seven full frames. The left-hander fanned a season-high 12 batters.
"It's a little frustrating not being able to pick up the guys," admitted Sabathia.
Hoping for a better effort tonight, the Yanks will turn to Japanese righty Hiroki Kuroda, who is 4-6 with a 3.82 ERA. Kuroda did not get a decision on Saturday in Detroit, but pitched well in surrendering a pair of runs in seven innings.
"You have to stay resilient and battle and fight, and hopefully you give your team a chance to win," Kuroda said. "We almost did, but hopefully next time."
The Mets have always given Kuroda fits, as he is a mere 1-5 lifetime against them with a 5.75 ERA in seven starts.
Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter comes into tonight's tilt with a 25-game hitting streak versus the Mets that dates to June 27, 2003. There is a good chance that streak could continue tonight, as his .442 career average (19- for-43) against Santana is his highest against any pitcher whom he's recorded 30 or more at-bats against.
"Facing Johan (on Friday) is going to be electric," said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. "He can't get any better. Well, he could pitch a perfect game. We just have to be really sharp because if you expand the zone against Johan, he's going to be tough. When he's on his game, he's one of the best in baseball."
The Yankees were 4-2 versus the Mets a year ago. The Bronx Bombers are 7-2-6 in the 15 season series since Interleague Play started in 1997.