Coming off three straight losses to division rivals, the Yankees must regain their focus for the circus that is the Subway Series.
The Bombers conclude a stretch of 17 games in as many days with three against the Mets at Citi Field in Queens.
New York's National League team got off to a hot start, winning eight in a row to climb into first place and finish April at 14-9, but when the calendar flipped to May, the Mets' began to go downhill.
They're now in last place in the NL East at 20-22 and are really struggling offensively, ranking 13th in the league in average (.246) and OPS (.705), and 14th in on-base percentage (.320).
The pitching, meanwhile, has kept the Mets afloat, and while it was better in April than in May, it does set up three evenly-matched pairings for this weekend.
Friday, May 21 - Javier Vazquez (2-4, 8.01) vs. Hisanori Takahashi (3-1, 3.12)
It took Vazquez one-third of an inning in relief on Monday to double his win total from his previous six starts.
After he finally pitched well during a seven-inning, two-run effort against the Tigers on May 12, the Yankees decided to pull him out of the rotation for nine days. I guess they were going with the successful Joba Chamberlain approach on that one.
Vazquez returns to the rotation on Friday versus the Mets, a team against which he is 9-8 with a 3.37 ERA in 23 starts. The right-hander has never pitched at Citi Field, but he was 4-4 with a 3.53 ERA in 11 outings at Shea Stadium.
This should be Vazquez's time to shine as he went 15-10 with a 2.87 mark dealing against mostly NL East opponents last year for the Braves, a stark contrast from his career 4.65 ERA in the American League.
But the Mets' roster hits .317 off the 33-year-old. Luis Castillo is 26-for-72 (.361), Alex Cora is 8-for-21 (.381), Gary Matthews Jr. is 6-for-10 (.600) and David Wright is 3-for-8 (.375).
Henry Blanco, however, is 4-for-20 (.200), Rod Barajas is 2-for-15 (.133) with five strikeouts, Jose Reyes is 3-for-13 (.231) and Jason Bay is 2-for-12 (.167) with five K's.
Takahashi has the daunting task of making his first Major League start against the Bronx Bombers. The left-hander has made 15 relief appearances during his rookie season, yielding 22 hits with 14 walks and 33 strikeouts in 26 innings.
Saturday, May 22 - Phil Hughes (5-0, 2.25) vs. Mike Pelfrey (5-1, 3.02)
Hughes had his first slip-up of the year in his last outing, when he surrendered five runs in five innings against the Red Sox. He still ranks third in the AL in ERA and WHIP (0.98), and hasn't lost yet.
The right-hander has pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings versus the Mets in his career. Bay is 1-for-6 (.167) off him with four strikeouts and Matthews is 1-for-4 (.250) with a double, while Barajas, Cora and Jeff Francoeur are a combined 0-for-4.
Like Hughes, Pelfrey has been a nice surprise for the Mets this season, but he has come back down to earth of late. After a 4-0, 0.69 April, the righty won for the first time in May his last time out, when he yielded two runs over 7 2/3 innings at Atlanta.
The 26-year-old is dealing with some shoulder stiffness and should face a stiff test when he goes up against the Yankees, a team he has faced twice, posting a 1-1 record and a 5.40 ERA.
Mark Teixeira is 4-for-13 (.308) off Pelfrey, while Alex Rodriguez (2-for-4), Derek Jeter (1-for-3), Brett Gardner (2-for-3) and Ramiro Pena (2-for-2, two doubles) have all had success in limited action.
However, Randy Winn is 1-for-10 (.100) with three strikeouts, Robinson Cano is 1-for-6 (.167) and Francisco Cervelli is 0-for-3.
Sunday, May 23 - CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.43) vs. Johan Santana (3-2, 3.72)
The marquee pitching matchup of the series comes Sunday night. After his worst start of the year - a six-run, six-inning effort at Detroit - Sabathia rebounded to hold the Red Sox to just one run on four hits over seven frames in his last outing.
The big lefty has pitched very well in two career starts against the Mets, winning both games with a 1.20 ERA. Both of those outings came on the road with one at Shea and the other at Citi.
Matthews is 5-for-26 (.192) with 10 strikeouts versus Sabathia, Castillo is 4-for-19 (.211), Bay is 1-for-9 (.111) and Cora and Wright are each 0-for-3.
The only Met who seems to give the southpaw problems is Barajas, who is 8-for-19 (.421) with three homers.
Like Pelfrey, Santana had a much better April (3-1, 2.08) than May (0-1, 5.68), but those latter stats are skewed by the 10 runs he gave up to the Phillies, who may or may not have been using binoculars to steal signs.
The Venezuelan is 4-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 11 games (eight starts) against the Yankees. Marcus Thames should get the day off as he is 4-for-34 (.118) with 13 strikeouts against Santana. The lefty also dominates Teixeira (6-for-26, .231), A-Rod (5-for-23, .217), Winn (4-for-17, .235) and Nick Swisher (3-for-15, .200).
Jeter (11-for-26, .423) and Cano (7-for-17, .412), however, have had success.
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Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.
Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org