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Palladino: Will ‘Initial’ Subway Series Matchup Match The Hype?

R.A. Dickey (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images), CC Sabathia (credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

R.A. Dickey (credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images), CC Sabathia (credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The second installment of this year’s Subway Series starts today, though the first pitching matchup won’t be the “initial” duel all will eagerly await.

That’s not to cast aspersions on tonight’s probables, or even tomorrow’s. Andy Pettitte-Jon Niese and Ivan Nova-Chris Young are perfectly solid. But the battle everyone wants to see comes Sunday, when Carsten Charles Sabathia takes the hill against Robert Allen Dickey. And no, it’s not just because it stacks up to an abbreviated war — CC vs. R.A.

It’s because these two guys are considered two of the top pitchers in baseball right now. Sabathia, the hard-throwing, 9-3 left-hander, comes off his first complete game of the season and goes in with a 3-1, 2.25 lifetime record against the Mets. Dickey and his knuckler had their scoreless streak broken at 32 2/3 innings, though his span of 42 2/3 innings without an earned run still stands.

He’s 11-1, 2.00. And given his 6-0, 0.18 mark over his last six starts, there are folks out there who may take up arms if Tony LaRussa doesn’t pick him to start the All-Star Game.

So what we have is a wonderful pitching matchup in store for what should be a packed Citi Field.

But you know what? It could turn into anything but that.

More often than not, these Matchup-of-the-Year type things tend not to work out as advertised. Maybe one guy doesn’t have it that day, and the other dominates. Or neither have it and the crowd winds up yawning through middle relief performances in the fifth inning.

But when they do work out, fans can expect something really special. Like the one that happened at Yankee Stadium back in 2000 between Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez in the days before anybody talked about wonder drugs like steroids and HGH. Back then, it was simply a matchup between a hated Red Sox pitcher who was off to a 7-2 start, and who eventually wound up 18-6 with a league-leading 1.74 ERA, and a then-struggling all-time great in the 4-4 Clemens.

Boston won that May 28 game 2-0. But what a treat the fans enjoyed as both men went the distance, Martinez going to 8-2 with nine innings of four-hit ball, and Clemens allowing just five hits that included Trot Nixon’s ninth-inning, two-run homer.

Martinez issued the only walk of the game. And 22 players struck out that day, 13 by Clemens’ hand and nine from Martinez.

Matchups like those do come along once in a while, more as coincidence created by the teams’ respective rotations than anything else. Managers are generally not disposed to fool with a pitcher’s routine for the sake of good box office, even if Terry Collins did idle Johan Santana two extra days to start him in the opener of the last go-around. But that was to let him recover — not so well as it turned out, as he gave up six earned runs over five innings in that 9-1 loss — from the 134 pitches he threw in his no-hitter the previous start.

Though it’s hard to put a journeyman like Dickey, despite his streak, in the same sentence as a couple of true greats like Clemens and Martinez, current circumstances make Sunday’s matchup one of the marquee faceoffs of the year so far. And the fact that Sabathia missed the first Subway Series adds a little juice.

So look forward to it. Enjoy it, because another Subway matchup that creates this sort of buzz could be hard to come by if the realignment of Houston into the American League forces MLB to cut this intra-city series back to three games next season.

Just hope that it turns out as advertised. You don’t get refunds if they’re in the clubhouse by the fifth inning.

Think CC vs. R.A. will live up to the hype? Be heard in the comments below!