The story of the two pitchers starting in Sunday night's game can be summed up in looking at how they've performed against Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.
Jeter typically roasts left-handed pitching, especially against the Mets. We mentioned earlier this week that he entered the series with a .451 batting average in 102 at-bats against Mets lefties.
For his career, Jeter is a .335 hitter against left-handed pitching. Among the 106 active players who entered Saturday with 1,000 at-bats against lefties, the only ones with a better career batting average against southpaws than Jeter were Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, and Manny Ramirez.
"He fouls a lot of pitches and makes it tough. He hits off pitches you think are good pitches and that makes him tough to handle."
Those are the words of someone who knows Jeter as both friend and foe, spoken by CC Sabathia to our Andrew Marchand before Saturday's game.
Sabathia is glad that he doesn't have to worry about Jeter. Of the 185 hitters who have had 15 or more turns against Sabathia, only Ramirez hits him better than Jeter did.
Jeter is 13-for-26 against Sabathia for his career. He drove Sabathia particularly crazy in CC's first two seasons in the majors, going 6-for-12 with a pair of walks. One of those came in a 14-pitch at-bat. The other took eight pitches.
To get outs against Jeter, they had to be earned outs. In Game 3 of the 2007 ALDS, Sabathia got Jeter to go 0-for-3, only one of two times the former Cleveland ace coaxed Jeter into an 0-for. It took 18 pitches to get those three outs.
Keep this stat in mind, too: We did a segment on the "Baseball Today" podcast last Wednesday on the best pitchers at whiffing "tough-strikeout" hitters. Sabathia fared best in a study passed on by Ryan Clancy of Baseball Info Solutions, due to his success against Dustin Pedroia (25 PA, 8 K) and Joe Mauer (25 PA, 9 K), but he's only fanned Jeter three times in 28 meetings.
"I think he is one of the greatest hitters in the game. He covers the whole plate with that inside-out swing. He always puts the ball in play and he hits it the other way."
Those are the words of someone who knows he still has to try to get Jeter out, spoken to our Ian Begley on Saturday. Johan Santana will take his best shot at it Sunday night, though his best shot may not be enough. Jeter has a .423 career batting average against Santana, with hits in all three turns against him last season.
Prior to becoming a Met, Santana might have thought he had Jeter figured out. Not so much. Since Santana became a Met, Jeter is 6-for-9 with a walk against him. He's been better against Santana in Mets-Yankees games than he's been in the postseason against him (when Santana was a Twin). In those games, Jeter was only 4-for-10.
When you think about this matchup of Sabathia vs. Santana, you figure you're seeing two guys who are among the best at what they do in the game. But peer over Sabathia's right shoulder and you'll see a guy who's so good that he has the best of the game completely figured out. We'll see what his true impact is when we watch Jeter -- for one and against the other -- on Sunday night.