Mariano Rivera still remembers the excitement surrounding the very first regular-season meeting between the Yankees and Mets, back in 1997.
The legendary closer could do nothing but watch as the Mets notched a 6-0 victory, but one day later, he earned the first of his 20 regular-season Subway Series saves after the Yankees defeated their crosstown rivals, 6-3.
On Monday the two teams will reignite their Subway Series rivalry -- with a new twist -- as the Mets welcome the Yankees to Citi Field for a home-and-home series, with right-hander Phil Hughes going for the Yankees and lefty Jon Niese on the hill for the Mets.
The Mets will play host on Monday and Tuesday before the four-game set shifts to Yankee Stadium for two more contests, on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I remember the first one. Now we play them every year, so we just know every year we're going to play the Mets," Rivera said. "It's more for the fans. They've become like another team in our division, because we play them every year. It becomes another division game for us. It's good, not traveling -- 20 minutes travel, and we have an escort. Fans love it. I think they get good joy out of it."
The Subway Series undoubtedly reached its peak in 2000, when the teams clashed in the World Series, with the Yankees emerging victorious in five games. Rivera, who said that the 2000 Fall Classic obviously stands out among the rest, notched saves in each of the final two games to help seal the Yankees' championship.
Although this week's series certainly doesn't carry that type of magnitude, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi said that he, like the fans, is looking forward to adding another chapter to the rivalry.
"I think it's exciting for the fans. I think it's exciting for the players. I think it's a great atmosphere," Girardi said. "So, yeah, I'm excited for it."
Mets manager Terry Collins was in agreement on that point.
"I kind of like it," Collins said. "I think it'll be fun. ... I do like the format of two and two.
"It's a great rivalry, a great city. Our guys will be up for it."
The Yankees enter the first meeting like they have so many others, atop the American League East. The Mets, meanwhile, sit in fourth place in the National League East and have lost 12 of their last 16.
Come first pitch on Monday, however, those numbers will be largely irrelevant as the intensity of the rivalry takes over.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells, a newcomer to the rivalry. "Obviously, being in New York now, you're either a Yankees fan, a Mets fan or you just hate the Yankees, period. It'll be a fun atmosphere."
Yankees: Hughes looking to build off last outing
Hughes, who was tagged for 13 combined runs over just 6 1/3 innings in his two outings before Tuesday's, bounced back by allowing just two runs over six innings against the Orioles.
Hughes' two rough starts, against the Royals on May 10 and the Mariners on May 15, came after he had pitched at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer in four straight starts from April 18 to May 4. He is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) against the Mets.
Mets: Niese sticking with game plan
The last time Niese, who is 3-5 with a 4.80 ERA this season, faced the Yankees was June 22 of last season, and he went 6 1/3 innings, gave up two earned runs on eight hits, struck out five and walked one.
The banged-up Yankees have a very different lineup right now, but Niese said he won't stray from his usual game plan.
"I've been working a lot on my mechanics, what I do, how I need to pitch to pitch a good game," Niese said. "I'll look at certain guys and find out a certain way to pitch to them. ... I'll look at some video, see how other guys attack them."
• The Yankees lead the all-time regular-season series against the Mets, 54-36.
• Since the inception of Interleague Play, in 1997, no team has performed better than the Yankees, who have a 174-114 record.
• Mets outfielder Lucas Duda homered on Sunday night to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games. Duda finished the game 3-for-4 and is batting .351 (13-for-37) during this run, with a homer and four doubles.