Though the New York Yankees have all but lost their division lead during an inconsistent road trip, a date with the crosstown rival New York Mets may be what they need to get it back.
The Yankees look to win for the 12th time in 15 meetings as this year's version of the Subway Series begins Monday night at Citi Field.
Unable to complete a three-game sweep at Tampa Bay with Sunday's 8-3 loss after losing two of three at Baltimore, the Yankees (30-19) conclude their trip with this brief two-game stay in Queens.
Sunday's defeat and Boston's win over Cleveland drew the Red Sox into a virtual tie with New York atop the AL East.
If their recent performance in the Subway Series is any indication, the Yankees should have a good chance to maintain at least a share of the division lead.
They won five of six from the Mets last season and have outscored them 70-38 during an 11-3 run in the series dating to 2010.
For the first time, the clubs will play four games in four days with the series moving to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Mets, who have hit .179 with runners in scoring position while dropping 12 of 16, snapped an eight-game home losing streak with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta on Sunday.
Ike Davis busted out of a 2-for-44 slump with two hits, including a go-ahead two-run single in a three-run eighth inning, as the Mets ended a five-game skid overall.
"Usually (the Yankees) are one of the premier teams in baseball, so I guess it's a good measuring stick as far trying to win a series against those guys, or beat those guys," third baseman David Wright told the team's official website.
Scheduled Yankees starter Phil Hughes (2-3, 5.51 ERA) seeks a third consecutive winning start against the Mets.
He'll attempt to get the ball to closer Mariano Rivera, who will play in his final regular season Subway Series.
"They've become like another team in our division, because we play them every year," said Rivera, who notched his 500th career save at Citi Field in 2009 and is perfect in 18 opportunities this year.
Hughes is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in three career starts versus the Mets after allowing two runs and six hits - two homers - over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-2 win June 9.
Wright took the right-hander deep in that contest, and is 7 for 20 with a home run and three RBIs in his last five games against the Yankees.
Lucas Duda went 3 for 4 with a homer Sunday and is batting .351 during a career-best 10-game hitting streak. He's also hit safely in eight straight games versus the Yankees.
The Mets will give the ball to struggling left-hander Jonathon Niese (3-5, 4.80), who is 1-5 with a 5.40 ERA over his last seven starts.
Niese, though, has lasted at least six innings and allowed three runs or less in each of his three career starts against the Yankees, going 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
He led the Mets to their only win versus the Yankees last season, yielding two runs and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 6-4 victory at Citi Field on June 22.
Robinson Cano is 4 for 9 lifetime against Niese and hitting .382 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games versus the Mets.