It’s been nearly 14 years since Dave Mlicki forever etched his name in New York baseball lore with a two-hit shutout in the first-ever Subway Series game between the Mets and Yankees.
Mlicki, who pitched the Mets to a 6-0 victory on the night of June 16, 1997 at the old Yankee Stadium, will long be remembered for that brilliant performance, even if there is little else he accomplished of note during his 10-year big-league career.
Beginning Friday night, the Mets and Yankees will renew their annual six-game series for city bragging rights with the opener of a three-game set at “The House that George Built”.
From Matt Franco’s game-winning single off Mariano Rivera on July 10, 1999, to Roger Clemens’ vicious beaning of Mike Piazza during a historic split-park doubleheader on July 9, 2000, and Luis Castillo’s painful dropped pop-up on June 12, 2009, this series is littered with memorable moments.
The Yankees lead the all-time series 45-33, not including their 4-1 triumph in the 2000 World Series. The Bombers also emerged victorious in the season series between the rivals on six occasions to the Mets’ two, while the clubs have split the annual grudge match six times, including last year.
The respective heroes and goats of the first installment of Subway Series 2011 will be decided over the next three days. Here are four ballplayers from each team who would benefit greatly from a strong showing in the games that seem to matter most to New York baseball enthusiasts.
1. Jorge Posada – The switch-hitting DH has gone from fan favorite to clubhouse pariah after his decision to take himself out of the lineup Saturday. Hitting .179 as of Thursday, Posada could use a good weekend against the Mets to help fans forget the worst week of his prestigious 17-year career.
2. Derek Jeter – Jeter was the MVP of the 2000 World Series against the Mets, but he is struggling to find the stroke that made him one of the most consistent everyday players in the majors. The Yankee captain also drew plenty of criticism from the organization for downplaying his close friend Posada’s mini-mutiny.
3. A.J. Burnett – The enigmatic right-hander blew a 5-1 lead at first-place Tampa on Monday, losing for the third time in four decisions since his surprising 3-0 start.
4. Nick Swisher – The right fielder has yet to deliver a hit with runners in scoring position and two outs (0-for-20) and is batting just .218 with two homers and 14 RBIs despite playing 38 of the Bombers’ first 40 games.
1. R.A. Dickey – Signed to a two-year deal after going 11-9 with a 2.84 ERA in Flushing last season, the knuckleballer has been a great disappointment in 2011, posting a 1-5 mark with a 5.08 ERA entering Friday night’s opener.
2. Jason Bay – Since inking a four-year, $66 million deal prior to last season, Bay has been a major free-agent bust for the Mets. He is batting a paltry .212 with two homers and seven RBIs in 22 games this year.
3. Daniel Murphy – Forced to fill in at first base for injured slugger Ike Davis, Murphy is hitting .176 this month with two extra-base hits in 14 games. Batting fifth in the Mets’ depleted lineup, which is also missing All-Star third baseman David Wright, the enigmatic infielder would like to hike his .125 (2-for-16) career average against the Bombers.
4. Terry Collins – Though the manager won’t throw a single pitch or deliver a key hit over the weekend, his reputation as the Mets’ new leader will be greatly enhanced by a strong showing against the Yanks. Despite a rash of injuries, the Mets have been a pleasant surprise since their 5-13 start under Collins, quelling the public sentiment that clamored for ownership to hire Wally Backman during the winter.