It's not the World Series. But it's far bigger than Twins-White Sox. Shea Stadium will be standing room only as the Mets face their city rivals. Victor Zambrano starts for the Mets on Friday against Kevin Brown.
The Mets, who have a road trip against Atlanta and Florida next week, can't afford to center all their emotions on the Yankees. But for a rebuilding team trying to establish itself as a contender, playing well against the Yankees would be a boost.
"It's special, no doubt about that," said manager Willie Randolph, who spent 25 seasons with the Yankees as a player, coach and front-office executive. "But I've been in a lot of big games so it's no big deal. It is going to be a little different looking across the diamond at guys I'm so familiar with. But once the game starts I'll be locked-in on getting a win."
The Mets were 4-2 against the Yankees last season, sweeping the three games at Shea. The Mets are 15-7 home this season.
"There will be Yankee fans here but we'll have the crowd with us," third baseman David Wright said. "It should be fun."
It was Asian Night on Tuesday at Shea Stadium, a marketing ploy designed to draw a few extra fans to an otherwise nondescript weekday game against the Cincinnati Reds.
The pre-game festivities included costumed musicians and young martial artists punching and kicking in the outfield. Then the two Japanese players on the Mets roster -- left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii and second baseman Kazuo Matsui -- played their roles perfectly.
Ishii threw 6 1/3 strong innings in his return from the disabled list and Matsui hit a game-winning home run in the seventh inning as the Mets beat the Reds 2-1 before a crowd of 28,426.
"I first realized when I went out on the field that it was Asian Night," Ishii said. "It was a good night for all Asians."
"I guess it was good timing," Matsui said, laughing.
With the Mets down 1-0, Doug Mientkiewicz singled to right with one out in the seventh. After David Wright flew out, Matsui homered to right off Ramon Ortiz.
RHP Kris Benson said he "lost focus" against the Cubs last week, which led to his giving up a career-worst four home runs. But his focus apparently returned on Monday night.
Benson threw 7 2/3 strong innings, allowing only two runs, as the Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-2 at Shea Stadium.
Benson (1-1) struck out eight, walked two and allowed only four hits. He had five 1-2-3 innings and at one point retired 10 in a row.
"This was a big start for me," Benson said. "I need to get back on the right track."
Benson also had a single that led to a run being scored as Cincinnati left fielder Adam Dunn misplayed the ball, allowing David Wright to score from second.
The Mets collected 13 hits off three Reds pitchers. Cliff Floyd homered, his 11th of the season.
Shortstop Jose Reyes and second baseman Kazuo Matsui were supposed to be a double-play combination who would also provide offensive spark. The Mets started the season with the two at the top of their batting order. Both are switch hitters with speed; it made perfect sense.
But with the season nearly 25 percent gone, Reyes was hitting .252 and Matsui was at .224. Matsui had been dropped to No. 8 in the order, and cries were being heard to move Reyes out of the leadoff spot because of his terrible (.280) on-base percentage.
The two have stolen only eight bases, far fewer than expected.
Mets manager Willie Randolph has preached patience, reminding critics that Reyes is only 21 ands Matsui is in his second season since coming over from Japan.
"You have to give guys a chance to get rolling," he said. "I'm not giving up on anybody this quickly. Those guys will hit for me."
Both players have been too aggressive at the plate, swinging at anything close. That limits RBI opportunities for Carlos Beltran, Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza. Still, the Mets were 19-19 after losing to St. Louis 4-2 on Sunday.
"We need those two guys who spark us," Beltran said. "Particularly Jose, we all know how much talent he has."
BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Number of runs LHP Tom Glavine has allowed in his last 11 innings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "These are normal struggles a pitcher goes through. People are accustomed to not seeing me give it up in back-to-back games. But those things happen. I'm human." -- RHP Pedro Martinez on giving up nine earned runs over his last two starts.
ROTATION: 1. RHP Pedro Martinez 2. LHP Tom Glavine 3. RHP Kris Benson 4. RHP Victor Zambrano 5. LHP Kaz Ishii BULLPEN: RHP Braden Looper (closer) RHP Mike DeJean RHP Heath Bell LHP Dae-Sung Koo RHP Roberto Hernandez RHP Manny Aybar RHP Aaron Heilman LINEUP: 1. SS Jose Reyes 2. 2B Kazuo Matsui 3. CF Carlos Beltran 4. C Mike Piazza 5. LF Cliff Floyd 6. RF Mike Cameron 7. 1B Doug Mientkiewicz 8. 3B David Wright RESERVES: C Mike DiFelice INF Miguel Cairo INF Chris Woodward INF/OF Marlon Anderson OF Eric Valent
May 17: C Ramon Castro, strained right quadriceps, 15-day DL.
April 19: LHP Felix Heredia, strained left thumb, 15-day DL.
RHP Steve Trachsel underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back on March 19 and will miss at least three months.
RHP Tyler Yates, who showed promise as a reliever, was lost for the season when he had shoulder surgery in February.