CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee began texting each other a week ago, but kept their notes private.
Now that the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies are set to meet, the former teammates can share their message with everyone: See ya in the World Series, buddy!
Broad Street vs. Broadway, cheesesteaks vs. cheesecake.
Six months after Sabathia and Lee opposed each other in the first game at the new Yankee Stadium, they return to the Bronx for higher stakes. Ryan Howard and the defending champion Phillies against Alex Rodriguez and the pinstripers in Game 1 Wednesday night.
The Yankees clinched their 40th World Series trip and first since 2003 by beating the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 Sunday night in Game 6 of the AL championship series. The Phillies were already waiting after dispatching the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the NLCS.
On deck, a most juicy matchup: A pair of teams with bruising lineups led by locked-in sluggers, dominant postseason aces on each side and brewing drama in the bullpen. The rosters include former World Series MVPs Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Cole Hamels, and familiar October faces Andy Pettitte, Pedro Martinez and Jorge Posada.
Plus, the Phillies and Yankees bring a bit of recent history and past memories to this Series.
Jimmy Rollins, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and the Phillies won two of three at Yankee Stadium in May despite Brad Lidge blowing a pair of save chances. The teams know each other well, having met several times in spring training with their camps only a half-hour apart in Florida.
Rival, rabid fans figure to have a say. Throngs of Phillies boosters traveled the 2 hours up I-95 to see the series earlier this season. Chances are, plenty of New York fans will be in Philadelphia next Sunday before Game 4 — earlier in the day, the Giants visit the Eagles.
Back in 1950, the Yankees and Phillies met in the World Series. Joe DiMaggio, Whitey Ford and the Yankees swept Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn and the Phillies, with every game tight. Philly rooters were all set to see the Yankees again in 1964, before a late-season collapse doomed them.
Both teams will be well rested for this meeting, which could end on Nov. 5 if it goes all seven games. The weather forecast for the opener is calling for showers, with temperatures in the 50s.
Manager Charlie Manuel and the Phillies will try to become the majors' first repeat champs since the 1998-2000 Yankees, and the first in the NL since the Big Red Machine in 1975-76. The Yankees will aim at their record 27th title — when manager Joe Girardi was hired two years ago, he took jersey No. 27 with that crown in mind.
With the Yankees leading the majors in walk-off wins and Rivera closing out many others, the Yankees topped baseball with 103 victories, swept Minnesota in the first round and shut down the Angels.
Mark Teixeira delivered at the plate, in the field and on the bases all year and then Rodriguez took over in the postseason, putting aside past October failures by hitting .438 with five homers and 12 RBIs in nine playoff games.
For a while, it was almost as if Rodriguez and Howard were staging their own derby. The Phillies' monster man had two homers and 14 RBIs in nine games against Colorado and the Dodgers this postseason, and was picked MVP of the NLCS.
Despite all their success, the Yankees didn't get off to such a great start at their new ballpark. They lost their debut at the $1.5 billion palace, with Lee pitching the Cleveland Indians past Sabathia and the Yankees 10-2.
The Phillies traded for Lee in late July and he's gotten better with every October start. He's 2-0 in three starts this postseason with an 0.74 ERA, and will start Game 1.
Sabathia, who joined Teixeira and A.J. Burnett when the Yankees spent $423.5 million in a free-agent frenzy during the offseason, was as good as advertised. He tied for the major league lead with 19 wins in the regular season, then went 3-0 with a 1.19 ERA in the playoffs.
Because the Yankees won the ALCS in six games, Sabathia was fresh for Game 1. Neither he nor Lee, however, have been especially sharp against the team they're about to face.
Sabathia is 1-2 with a 5.55 ERA in four career starts against the Phillies, including a loss with Milwaukee in Game 2 of last year's NL division series. Lee is 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA in nine career starts against New York.
That said, the former AL Cy Young winners with Cleveland will soon see each other again after a week of texting. As for those long-agonizing Indians fans, Sabathia had a message for them, too.
"It's not our fault," he said, laughing.