NEW YORK– Unless these two teams meet each other in the World Series, this will be the final time they face one another until 2011. The Yankees and the Mets are playing their sixth and final game against each other today, with the season series hanging in the balance. The Mets can win the season series from the Yankees for the first time since 2008, or the Yankees can earn a split.

How better to settle the score than have each team’s ace on the mound. Just as when Johan Santana bested CC Sabathia back on May 23, the two will square off today. Both left-handers have had a hard go of it lately.

In fact, four of Sabathia’s last five wins have come against the 19-49 Baltimore Orioles. During that stretch, the Mets beat him on the Sunday of the opening round at Citi Field.

On the other hand, Santana also hasn’t pitched well lately, blowing leads in his last two starts. On June 10, the Mets last loss before yesterday, Santana was handed a 2-0 lead against the offensively challenged San Diego Padres, and he gave four back in a 4-2 Mets loss.

In his last start against the Indians on Tuesday, Santana gave four runs up after the Mets had given him one, a game the Mets would go on to win 7-6. Those two starts of giving up eight total runs coming after two consecutive scoreless efforts.

So both aces have hit a bump in the road but will try to raise their game. Sabathia is coming off an outing in which he was the beneficiary of the Yankees’ offense tattooing Roy Halladay for three home runs.

After being in an offensive slumber over the previous three games, the Yankees hit two home runs off Mike Pelfrey yesterday, but other than that, they weren’t impressive. They had an opportunity to blow the game open in the eighth against Ryota Igarashi, with second and third and none out, but failed to score.

On the Mets side of things, their offense couldn’t respond to Pelfrey allowing two home runs, as they trailed 5-3 after four and although never allowed any more runs, never fought back. All three runs were produced by two Jose Reyes home runs, his first multi-home run game since May 2008, as everyone else struggled.

Speaking of struggles, suddenly, after being red-hot, David Wright is in one. After striking out once on Friday night, he struck out three times yesterday, reverting back to his April and May ways, and carrying a long swing at the plate.

It may only be one game, but watching Wright’s approach to Joba Chamberlain’s four sliders yesterday, he looked lost. The last slider that struck him out was on the left batter’s box and in the dirt, and Wright chased. If the Mets want their offense to roll like it had on the entire road trip to Baltimore and Cleveland, Wright must find out what’s going wrong immediately.

Another hitter having a hard time of it is Jason Bay. People may not want to call him a bust just yet, but it’s now June 20, and Bay has four home runs, two coming in one game. With a chance yesterday to get the Mets closer, he ended an inning with a double play. It seems as if whenever there’s a rally going, Bay kills it. So although the Mets were scorching-hot for a while, it’s games like yesterday’s that expose some slumping hitters.

Derek Jeter may return to today’s lineup after sitting out yesterday with a bruised right heel, and Alex Rodriguez may have to play third base so that Jorge Posada doesn’t have to catch back-to-back games.

Last season when Santana started a game at Yankee Stadium, things didn’t quite go too well. He got roughed up for a then-career high nine earned runs, en route to a 15-0 Mets loss. He’ll obviously hope for better things this time around, and it should be a fun pitchers’ duel. Yet again, the way these two are pitching lately, and the way the ball flew out of the Stadium yesterday, it may be a slugfest.

One thing is for sure, someone will win this series today. The Mets actually enter today’s play with the National League Wild Card lead, one game over the Dodgers. The Mets are aiming higher than that, but it’s a good lead.

Johan Santana vs. New York Yankees (May 23)
Win, 7.2 IP, 1 ER, 6 hits, 3 BB, 5 SO

CC Sabathia vs. New York Mets (May 23)
Loss, 5 IP, 6 R, 5 ER, 10 hits, 2 BB, 6 SO, 2 HR

2010 season series (New York Mets vs. New York Yankees)
May 21: New York Yankees 2, New York Mets 1
May 22: New York Mets 5, New York Yankees 3
May 23: New York Mets 6, New York Yankees 4
June 18: New York Mets 4, New York Yankees 0
June 19: New York Yankees 5, New York Mets 3
Mets lead series 3-2

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