By MARK HALE and DAN MARTIN
Tonight at Citi Field, R.A. Dickey will see if he can tame the Mets’ archrivals and the Yankees’ ace lefty.
Dickey and CC Sabathia are set to battle it out in tonight’s Subway Series finale at Citi Field, a spectacular pitching matchup that’s the New York baseball version of LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning or Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic.
Dickey comes into tonight 11-1 on the season with a 2.00 ERA, having tossed consecutive complete-game one-hitters. The dazzling knuckleballer hasn’t permitted an earned run in 42 2/3 innings and has surrendered just 16 hits during that span.
As for Sabathia, he again ranks as one of the sport’s finest pitchers, delivering another strong year at 9-3 with a 3.55 ERA. He’s 4-1 with a 3.16 ERA in his last five turns.
The bulk of tonight’s probable Yankees lineup — Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Chris Stewart — has gone a collective 5-for-26 off Dickey since 2010. Teixeira has the group’s lone home run. But one other Yankees hitter may be able to solve Dickey’s brilliance.
In his 17 at-bats against Dickey since the righty joined the Mets in 2010, Raul Ibanez has racked up seven hits (good for a .412 average) and two homers while witth the Phillies.
“To me, to be honest with you, I don’t really know what the numbers are or care to really talk about [it],” Ibanez said yesterday. “But I can tell you he’s a really good pitcher and he’s really tough.”
So is Sabathia. In his last start against the Braves, he had one of his better sinkers this season and used it frequently.
“Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t,” said Stewart, who has become Sabathia’s personal catcher. “It’s basically a 50-50 thing, and when he has it, he’s a different pitcher.”
Sabathia showed that in his last outing on Monday, firing his first complete game of the season.
“When he has that pitch, I’m not afraid to call it in any situation,” Stewart said. “And that opens up so much.”
Sabathia said the sinker has worked when he threw it on the side since his last start, but that doesn’t mean he is certain it will be reliable tonight.
“I felt good about the way it was coming out of my hand last time and I’ve continued to have it,” he said. “But it’s still a hit-or-miss pitch with me because I haven’t thrown it that long.”
Sabathia’s opposing starter, Dickey, hasn’t given up an earned run since May 22 against the Pirates. Since then, he allowed no runs to the Padres, Cardinals and Nationals before surrendering an unearned run versus the Rays. Dickey then followed that up last Monday by shutting out the Orioles. And now he’ll face the Yankees for the first time this season — opposing their ace.
“I’m really no more excited about it than if I were starting against the Pirates or Padres or Cardinals,” Dickey insisted. “I think it’s been built up to some kind of crescendo probably, but I will approach it no differently.”