Mets aim to get Subway back on track

WASHINGTON -- Mets left-hander Hisanori Takahashi has faced the Yankees once before.
The encounter came when the Yankees played an exhibition game against Takahashi's Yomiuri Giants on March 28, 2004 in Japan.

That day, Takahashi became the foil in Hideki Matsui's triumphant return to their native country. Takahashi served up a homer to Matsui on a 63 mph hanging changeup as the Yankees won 6-2 in a tune-up for opening the major league season against Tampa Bay two days later at the Tokyo Dome.

Now Matsui has left the Bronx, and Takahashi is getting a second chance to face the Yankees -- this time on American soil. The 35-year-old major league rookie, who earned a bullpen spot out of spring training, is making his first start Friday as the Mets open the Subway Series.

"A lot of Japanese people know the Yankees," Takahashi said through an interpreter. "I'm happy to pitch against them."

The Mets' first Subway Series at Citi Field against the Yankees did not go well. The Yankees outscored the Mets 18-3 while sweeping the three games last June 26-28.

"It's always good to have those series. You find out where your team is and how they perform in that type of environment," manager Jerry Manuel said. "You obviously would like to be hitting a little better -- be on all cylinders -- and then go into that series. I think the one thing, at least as we sit here today, we go in a little more healthier [with position players] than we were the last time. That's huge for us. And we play pretty good baseball at home."

Mets rookie first baseman Ike Davis has ties to the Yankees. His father Ron, a reliever, played his first four major league seasons in the Bronx.

"Everyone has grown up knowing the Yankees," Davis said. "I've always dreamt of playing them in some form or fashion when I was in Little League -- either being on them or hitting a home run against them or something."

Davis, though, acknowledged he also views his father as a Minnesota Twin, where the elder Davis played from 1982-86.

"I definitely identify him with the Yankees more," Davis said. "But, the thing is, he was a Twin. So that's a memory, too. The Yankees are definitely, I think, the place he played the best. It's going to be cool playing one of the most iconic teams."

Mets left fielder Jason Bay faced the Yankees the past two seasons with far more at stake -- as an American League East rival with the Boston Red Sox. Still, Bay suggested, he's looking forward to the New York-New York atmosphere.

"I think it will be interesting," Bay said. "It's nice because it's a little bit different than a regular-season matchup with just another team all season. There are a few rivalry matchups that are a little bit different. It breaks up the monotony a little bit. This one definitely seems like it will be that."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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