Mets manager Terry Collins watches as pitchers and catchers start...

Mets manager Terry Collins watches as pitchers and catchers start their workout during spring training. (Feb. 21, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Terry Collins didn't feel the need to go all Knute Rockne before the opener of the Mets' three-game Subway Series Friday night to find a way to get his young team going against its crosstown rival.

Sure, Collins wanted the Mets to beat the Yankees in a series, something they hadn't done in their previous four tries. But he planned to leave any pep talks to the likes of veterans David Wright and Johan Santana if need be, figuring they would be better served trying to help their younger teammates get past any intimidating factors that could crop up.

"Those young guys, look, you've got to forget the names," Collins said. "You've got to forget the names on the back of the uniform -- of course, the Yankees don't have them -- but you've just got to go play.

"You can't worry that it's A-Rod or it's the Yankees. It's going to be a big crowd and you have to learn how to play in front of big crowds. The leadership of the players does more than what I'm going to say."

The Mets haven't won a series against the Yankees since May 21-23, 2010, and went 2-4 against them last season. They're 35-52 against the Yankees in the regular season, which includes a 19-23 mark at home heading into Friday night.

Still, that doesn't mean there wasn't a little extra juice flowing through Citi Field.

"I see it amongst the fans, I saw the excitement in our players when we played at home," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think it means more when both teams are involved in [pennant] races. I always think that adds a little fuel to it. So I think our guys get excited to play it. I do."

For Collins, the second installment of the Subway Series doesn't represent another barometer of sorts. The Mets have navigated their way through a tough stretch of winning teams.

They entered Friday night having played 22 of 25 straight games against teams that were over .500 at the time, posting an 11-11 mark. But they've also been involved in four straight series sweeps, which began with the Yankees taking all three games between the two a couple of weeks ago. After winning three against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., the Mets returned home and dropped a three-game set to the Reds before sweeping the Orioles.

"We've had a lot of tests in the last month," Collins said. "This is just another one. We thought we were going to have a big test when we got swept in New York and went down and played Tampa -- statistically, the best pitching in the American League. [We] played great, came home and got beat, got swept. We've got tests every weekend, so I don't think this is any more special than any other series we've had.

"We are playing a very, very good team that's playing very well. We know that. We are aware of it. Our guys read the papers every day. They've got to go out there tonight and play their game and not make mistakes. If we make mistakes, they are a tough team to beat."

They're also a team Collins hopes the Mets can emulate.

"One of the things I've always respected about the Yankees is everybody wants to beat them and they have to deal with that every single night," Collins said. "The way they approach the game, they walk out there and they just play. They don't get too high, they don't get too down. That's what we are trying to get our guys to understand and be the same way."

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