Subway Series starts key stretch

Subway Series starts key stretch

NEW YORK -- As the world turns its attention to Gotham for the mythic "Subway Series," Mets third baseman David Wright would liken these next four games to nothing more than 36-plus innings.

Aside from the carnival-like atmosphere, the media following each team as they travel across town, the Mets are just about to count their blessings -- all four of them. This series represents four opportunities to crawl back into playoff contention, four games to reduce the Phillies' lead in the National League East, four chances to help change an entire season's outlook.

In fact, the Mets are already counting ahead to an upcoming road swing in St. Louis and Philadelphia, New York's top National League Wild Card and divisional rivals, respectively, recognizing that these next 12 games could erase a lot of false steps toward what still aren't far-fetched postseason aspirations.

"We are fortunate to play as mediocre as we have and still be this close to the top," Wright said.

Coming off of a Mariners series where the Mets didn't always display a superlative offense, the Yankees might actually be a welcome sight. The Mets acquitted themselves well in their first rendezvous with the Yankees, beating up on top-of-the-rotation starters Andy Pettite and Chien-Ming Wang for a combined 10 earned runs.

And there is no denying that there is something extra special about this series. Mets interim manager Jerry Manuel tried denying as much in his first year as the skipper of the White Sox before lining up against the Cubs in Interleague Play.

"I was kind of taking it as three more games," Manuel said, "and then I was taken into the office and told, 'Those games mean two.'"

This year, they might as well be worth double. The timing of this series, along with upcoming rematches against the NL powers the Mets were supposed to contend with, provide an opportunity for New York to dream a little more about October baseball.

"You have two teams that hopefully will get into the playoffs and will hopefully get to see each other later on in the season," Manuel said about facing the Yankees. "But I think one good thing about these series for me is that it gives me a real good chance to evaluate how my players respond to that type of atmosphere, because that's as close as you can get midseason to a playoff-style atmosphere."

Pitching matchup
Game 1
NYM: RHP Mike Pelfrey (4-6, 4.30)
Pelfrey walked five batters last Sunday at Coors Field, but he managed to pitch out of multiple jams and blanked the Rockies over 5 2/3 innings. He was inefficient -- but effective, nonetheless -- throwing 98 pitches and allowing three hits. Pelfrey will get his first career start vs. the Yankees during the first half of Friday's doubleheader.

NYY: RHP Dan Giese (1-2, 0.64)
Giese threw an impressive 6 2/3 innings in his Major League starting debut vs. the Reds on Saturday, giving up three unearned runs on only four hits. Nevertheless, he recorded the tough-luck loss, as his own throwing error to second base blew a double-play opportunity. The right-hander still recorded outs quickly, avoiding long at-bats to total only 75 total pitches (53 strikes). Giese, like Pelfrey, has never pitched against his crosstown rival.

Game 2
NYM: RHP Pedro Martinez (2-1, 6.57)
Martinez was cruising on Saturday vs. the Rockies until he allowed six runs on seven hits in the fifth inning. Serving up home runs on each of his first two pitches in that inning, Martinez retired only one batter before giving way to his bullpen. He threw 75 pitches, allowing nine hits and one walk in total. Martinez's next outing comes against the Yankees, whom he last faced in 2006, shutting them out in seven solid innings at Shea Stadium.

NYY: RHP Sidney Ponson (4-1, 3.88)
The veteran Ponson is in line to start the second game in this two-stadium Subway Series. Ponson was 4-1 with a 3.88 ERA in nine starts for the Rangers this season before he was designated for assignment due to off-the-field issues. Ponson made his Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre debut last Saturday, giving up one run through four innings in a tuneup for the Mets. He is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in three career starts against the Mets, though he hasn't faced them since 2003.

Tidbits
Manuel confirmed on Wednesday that Oliver Perez does not need to worry about losing his spot in the rotation. After getting hit by the Mariners for five runs, including two home runs, in five innings on Tuesday, the Mets' manager said he would definitely have to take a closer look at Perez. And while his next start vs. the Yankees isn't the end-all for the 26-year-old lefty, it will definitely go a long way toward determining Perez's future role as a Mets starter. "Looking back at Oliver Perez, it seems as though the bigger the game, the bigger the performance," Manuel said. "And you can't get no bigger a game than the Yankees on [Sunday] afternoon in Shea Stadium. That's a championship type of deal."

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• SNY

On radio
• WFAN 660, WADO 1280 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Mets (Johan Santana, 7-6, 2.93) vs. Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 8-5, 4.04), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Mets (Oliver Perez, 5-5, 5.29) vs. Yankees (Darrell Rasner, 4-5, 4.50), 1:10 p.m. ET
• Monday: Mets (John Maine, 8-5, 3.73) at Cardinals (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.