CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against...

CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. (May 18, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

The last time CC Sabathia and Johan Santana were this close, they were trying to scarf down Subway heroes under the watchful eye of a commercial director.

The pitchers haven't faced each other since that summer day last year when they filmed their affable TV spot for the sandwich giant. But Sunday night, they'll be the marquee matchup in the Subway Series finale.

Their rivalry, of sorts, was formed during their years in the American League Central together. Sabathia was in Cleveland from 2001-08 and Santana pitched for Minnesota from 2000-07.

And their competitive fire hasn't waned since joining new teams.

"I think it's going to be exciting," said Santana, who is 4-2 with a 4.40 career ERA against the Yankees in 11 games and eight starts. "The matchup is going to be fun and at the same time, it's going to be challenging."

Sabathia is the only pitcher to ever beat Santana three times in one season, doing so in 2007 - the year he won the American League Cy Young Award. The Yankees ace, who said he was unaware of his success against Santana, said he's far more preoccupied with the Mets' lineup and batting against Santana for the first time.

"It [stinks]. He's lefthanded," Sabathia, a career .261 hitter with three homers and 14 RBIs in 96 plate appearances, said with a laugh. "I was hoping that I would get to pitch today or something, but it's all right."

Despite some solid starts, Santana (3-2, 3.72) hasn't recorded a win since April 27, when the Mets defeated the Dodgers, 4-0. Still, he said he isn't putting too much pressure on himself.

"My approach in the game is to give everything I have," he said. "My job is to go out there and perform and somehow find a way to win."

In his last outing against the Yankees, Santana allowed a career-worst nine runs in three innings in a 15-0 loss June 14, 2009, at the Stadium.

Sabathia, on the other hand, recorded the win in his last start against the Mets: a 9-1 rout June 26, 2009, in which he allowed three hits and one run in seven innings. He also got an RBI single off the game's starting pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning.

With these two aces on the mound, runs could be at a premium for both clubs.

"So you just try to go out and put up zeroes and keep trying to match him," said Sabathia (4-2, 3.43 ERA). "It could be a game where we both give up seven, who knows."

Though neither pitcher wants to accept defeat, regardless of the outcome, their mutual respect will remain intact.

"Last year, when we had that commercial, we had a great time," Santana said. " . . . He has a great sense of humor. But I know one thing: He's a great competitor, and when he takes the mound, he's for real. And I'm the same way."

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