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Who's better ace: Michael Pineda or Matt Harvey?

Michael Pineda struck out 16 to lead the

Michael Pineda struck out 16 to lead the Yankees past the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, May 10, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After Sunday's golden 16-K performance by Michael Pineda, there can no longer be a debate:

Pineda is the Yankees' ace. Their No. 1. Their horse. Their stopper. Their best starting pitcher.

Whichever title you'd like to use, the big guy earned it by striking out 16 Orioles and walking none in seven scintillating innings in a 6-2 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Now, another debate can begin. Who is the best starting pitcher in New York, Pineda or Matt Harvey?

With the Yankees and Mets each earning their 20th win Sunday, we can leave aside the conversation about which team owns New York for a moment. Call them co-owners.

Fans of both first-place franchises should be smiling about the first fifth of the season. Raise your hand if you foresaw 40 wins by Mother's Day from Gotham's Nines.

You're the only one.

Excellence was far easier to predict from Harvey and Pineda if you saw them pitch in spring training. But neither was a sure thing coming off major injuries, be it Harvey's elbow or Pineda's shoulder.

Much has been made, and rightly so, of Harvey's desire to be one of the best ever. His competitiveness and work ethic are as real as his love of the bright lights of Manhattan.

And apparently, so is his love of cheese, as he once told The New York Times in a day-in-the-life profile more out of Hollywood than Flushing. That's Harvey -- a true star the Mets can follow.

Pineda's fondness for Brie or Manchego has yet to be chronicled. We know much less about him other than the injury that cost him his first two Yankees seasons and the pine tar debacle in Boston last April. But the talent is there, and teammates say the work ethic now matches.

"He has the chance to be one of the best in baseball," Carlos Beltran said.

On Sunday, Pineda tied David Cone and David Wells for the second-most strikeouts in Yankees history. Ron Guidry holds the record with 18 against the Angels on a magical night in 1978, a night on which the tradition of rhythmic clapping with two strikes at Yankee Stadium was born.

That tradition has fallen off some, but it was back Sunday as the crowd of 39,059 saw Pineda mowing down the Orioles from the first batter, Manny Machado, who looked at a third strike.

Pineda struck out six of the first nine batters and got No. 10 in the fourth inning. He set a career high when he whiffed Ryan Flaherty for his 11th in the fifth and finished with a flourish by fanning his last two batters to end the seventh.

"I feel great today," said Pineda, who gave up one run on a J.J. Hardy home run in the second and threw a career-high 111 pitches, 85 for strikes. "I can't explain how happy I am."

Harvey's career high in strikeouts is 13 on June 18, 2013, at Atlanta. Here are some other numbers on the two 26-year-olds who were born less than two months apart in 1989:

Pineda, 2015 (5-0, 2.72 ERA, 461/3 IP, 44 H, 3 BB, 54 K).

Harvey, 2015 (5-1, 2.72 ERA, 392/3 IP, 33 H, 5 BB, 38 K).

Pineda, career (19-15, 3.10).

Harvey, career (17-11, 2.43)

Both righthanders seem to have huge upsides along with one huge question mark hanging over their heads because of past injuries.

So which one is the best starting pitcher in New York? Yankees and Mets fans can't agree on much, but we'll bet they can agree on one thing: Right now, they'll take their guy, their ace, their horse. And hope to ride him all the way to October.

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