Results tagged ‘ Daniel Murphy ’

Yankees win big after Harvey departs

How is that innings limit on Matt Harvey looking now? To the Yankees, it looked great Sunday night.

No sooner had Harvey been told his night was over after the fifth inning despite working on a one-hit shutout than the Yankees got on the board finally and swayed the momentum of the game. An 11-2 pasting won the Subway Series, four games to two, for the Yankees and moved them to 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the American League East on the way to Toronto for a three-game showdown at Rogers Centre.

The Mets had to wonder what kind of karma was going on after Harvey was pulled after throwing 77 pitches, most of them quality, as he allowed one hit, an infield single, and one walk with seven strikeouts.

But in an attempt to limit Harvey’s innings in his return season from Tommy John surgery, the righthander was taken out of a close game and watched blurringly as the Yankees put up a five-spot in the sixth against Hansel Robles.

With Harvey out of the game, the Mets did nothing right that inning nor the rest of the game, for that matter. Two errors in the infield — an errant throw by second baseman Daniel Murphy and a dropped ball at third base by David Wright — fueled the inning highlighted by two extra-base hits — a two-run double by Carlos Beltran and a three-run home run by Dustin Ackley, who has had some big hits for the Yankees this month. Beltran, who entering the Subway Series had never had a game-winning RBI against the Mets, got two in the past two days.

In a matter of minutes, Harvey’s 1-0 gem was turned into a 5-1 Yankees lead for a run-starved and energized CC Sabathia. He gave up a quick run in the first on doubles by Ruben Tejada and Wright but after walking the bases full left the runners stranded by getting Michael Cuddyer on a foul pop. That was the first of nine straight outs as the lefthander hit his stride and kept the Yankees close until they could figure out a way to solve Harvey or hope the Mets would lift him sooner than later.

Sooner it came, and the Mets paid for it later. It turned out to be dark night for the Mets without the “Dark Knight.”

Sabathia was a winner for the first time in 10 starts since July 8 in his third straight strong start since coming off the disabled list. He has come through in his promise to be a factor down the stretch in the division race. Sabathia has allowed only two earned runs in 17 1/3 innings (1.04 ERA) in those three starts.

The night just got better for the Yankees, who added another run in the seventh on a bases-loaded walk and poured on five more in the eighth climaxed by a three-run home run by Greg Bird. And all those late runs meant Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller could stay seated in the bullpen and be well rested for the series in Toronto.

The Yankees’ 82nd victory guaranteed them a winning season for the 23rd consecutive year, the second longest above-.500 streak in major league history only to the franchise’s record stretch of 39 straight winning seasons from 1926 through 1964.

Yanks go down fighting but definitely down

At least the Yankees went down fighting. Trailing by four runs in the top of the ninth inning, they loaded the bases with one out against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and had the sellout crowd of 43,602 at Citi Field pretty nervous. Familia recovered, however, and down the Yankees indeed did go.

The 5-1 loss smarted, and least of all because it came against the Mets. These Subway Series certainly draw the interest of the two New York teams’ fan bases, but as former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to point out at this juncture of the season they are not playing for the same prize, which is the downside of inter-league competition.

What hurt mostly is that the setback corresponded with the Blue Jays winning at home against the Red Sox so that the Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. Also, the Yanks were defeated with their ace on the mound, which could mean having Masahiro Tanaka make his next start Wednesday night at Toronto might be a waste of time. A lot can happen over the next four days that could convince manager Joe Girardi to give Tanaka extra rest so that he can be at his sharpest for the wild card game.

With 16 games remaining, it is far too early for the Yankees to concede the division title to Toronto and concentrate on making sure they are the home team in the wild card playoff. But the idea has to have crossed Girardi’s mind.

Tanaka started Friday night on regular rest so that he would be available to pitch in the Toronto series that follows the Subway Series. He pitched well, too, although he could not keep two balls in the yard that ruined his outing. Solo home runs by Lucas Duda off a high splitter in the second inning and Daniel Murphy on a wimpy slider in the sixth were the only real mistakes made all night by Tanaka, who has allowed 24 home runs in 149 innings.

The Yankees got a run in the first inning off Mets rookie Steven Matz on a sacrifice fly by Chris Young before the lefthander settled down and held the Yankees at bay through the sixth. That was Matz’s last inning and one that presented Girardi with a big decision.

With the score 1-1, the Yankees had runners on first and third and two out with 8-hole hitter Brendan Ryan due up and Tanaka in the on-deck circle. On the bench lurked Alex Rodriguez, rendered a bench warmer because the designated hitter is outlawed in the National League. That might have been the perfect time to let A-Rod try to break open the game as a pinch hitter, but Girardi did not think so.

The skipper’s thinking was that there was still an open base, even though it was second base, so Rodriguez could have been pitched around, perhaps even purposely walked and then Girardi would have to lift Tanaka for a pinch hitter. He liked the way his pitcher was throwing and did not want to chance that Rodriguez would be wasted in an at-bat in that circumstance. So he let Ryan hit or at least swing, which he did on the first pitch and grounded out to end the threat.

Murphy’s homer off Tanaka came in the bottom of that inning, and the Mets never looked back. Juan Uribe would have the big pinch-hit at-bat in the game for the Mets and drove an opposite-field, two-run home run to right off Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling of late (six earned runs in his past four innings).

Rodriguez did come up in the pinch, but it was when the Yanks were four runs behind in the ninth with a runner on second and one out. He, yep, walked, just as Girardi feared would happen earlier. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury off Familia’s shin filled the bases, but the Mets’ closer in a non-save situation retired Brett Gardner on a fly to left and struck out Chase Headley.

The NL East-leading Mets reduced their major number for clinching their first division title in nine years to eight, but this was a case of one New York team being hurt more by a loss than the other was fortified by a victory.

Extra-base hits aplenty in Subway Series finale

Despite the Mets’ hot start, Curtis Granderson had not hit a home run for them over their first 18 games. All it took was a little dose of Yankee Stadium to get him going.

Granderson hit 61 home runs at the Stadium in his time in the American League. Thanks in large part to the right field porch at the Stadium, Granderson topped the 40-homer mark twice during his tenure with the Yankees. So it was a familiar sight to see him cut on a fastball from Nathan Eovaldi and drive it over the fence in right-center for his first home run of the season and the 29th of his career leading off a game.

It was part of a wicked first inning for Eovaldi, who was in his first Subway Series but was no stranger to the Mets. He made seven starts against them while with the Marlins and was 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA. The Mets scorched some balls, and it took a splendid play in center field by Chris Young to keep the inning from unraveling entirely.

After Juan Lagares, who had four hits Saturday, smoked a hard grounder off first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove for a single, Lucas Duda hit a drive directly over Young’s head in dead center field. With the same turn-and-burn approach teammate Jacoby Ellsbury employed the day before, Young put on the jets and caught up with the ball for a back-handed catch in front of the warning track. Lagares was practically at the shortstop position and had to bust it hard to get back to first  base.

Third baseman Chase Headley was next to come to Eovaldi’s aid with a diving stop of hard grounder by Michael Cuddyer. But there was nothing Teixeira could do to stop an absolute smoking shot by Daniel Murphy that became a an RBI double.

Eovaldi’s defense helped keep hiom close, and the Yankees’ offense fought back with a vengeance to take the lead away from Mets lefthander Jonathan Niese. It started in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez drove a 2-2 hanger to right field for his fifth home run of the season and career No. 659.

The second inning was when the Yankees jumped all over Niese and also took advantage of a throwing error by Cuddyer in left field to form a  four-run rally. Doubles by John Ryan Murphy, Gregorio Petit and Brett Gardner thrust the Yankees into the lead. Young got another run home with an opposite-field single against the shift. On a double to left by Rodriguez, Cuddyer made an awful relay to the infield that allowed Young to score before A-Rod was tagged out trying to advance to third base.

Eovaldi seemed to settle down and retired six batters in a row — four by strikeouts — before the Mets fought back to make the score 5-4 with two outs in the third on a single by Duda and doubles by Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy. With balls searing all over the yard in the early going, this had all the looks of a barnburner.

Tanaka brilliant in 4-hit shutout of Mets

Quality pitching finally arrived in this year’s Subway Series, courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese righthander gave the Yankees precisely what they needed Wednesday night at Citi Field after being outscored by the Mets, 21-14, in the first two games at Yankee Stadium.

Tanaka earned his first complete game and shutout in the United States with a dazzling four-hitter, 4-0. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight. In addition, he rubbed the Mets face in it a bit by getting his first major-league hit, a single to center field off reliever Jose Valverde with two out in the eighth inning. Mets pitchers do not have a hit this season. Their 0-for-64 is the longest hitless streak of any pitching staff from the start of a season in history.

Tanaka silenced the Mets’ bats as well as most throats in the crowd of 35,577. In doing so, he improved his record to 6-0, which is a quarter of the way towards the 24-0 mark he compiled last year in Japan. Yankees fans surely see by now why the club was so high on signing Tanaka in the off-season. Six weeks into the season, he has emerged as the staff ace in a rotation that has been beset with injuries.

The Yankees spoiled the major-league debut of righthander Rafael Montero, a top pitching prospect for the Mets who has nothing to be ashamed about in his first outing. He gave up home runs to the Yanks’ two hottest hitters, Yangervis Solarte and Mark Teixeira, and another tainted run on one of Brian Roberts’ two triples that was misplayed by left fielder Eric Young Jr.

Tanaka got the Yankees through a game in which they were quite a bit short-handed. Not only did he bring relief to a worn-out relief corps but also allowed Carlos Beltran (right elbow bone spur) and Ichiro Suzuki (back and right knee soreness) additional time to heal their wounds.

Tanaka has won more games without a loss from the start of the season than any Yankees rookie pitcher since Hall of Famer Whitey Ford started his career 9-0 in 1950. Tanaka is also the first Yankees pitcher rookie or otherwise to pitch at least 6 1/3 innings in eight consecutive starts from the beginning of a season since Mel Queen did so in his first nine starts of 1944.

So desperate were the Mets for runs they tried to exploit the Yankees’ use of the over-shift by going for cheap stolen bases. It worked in the first inning for Daniel Murphy, who swiped an unprotected second base in front of Roberts, who was stationed in shallow right-center field with David Wright at the plate. It was to no avail as Wright and Curtis Granderson both flied out.

Chris Young tried the same thing in the fifth after he led off with a single. This time, Solarte from his over-shifted third base position was quick to cover second base as Young was thrown out by catcher Brian McCann.

Tanaka allowed only two Mets players to get as far as second base. In addition to Murphy in the first, Eric Young Jr. got there with a two-out double in the sixth before Murphy grounded out. Playing right field with Beltran and Suzuki unavailable, Alfonso Soriano made the fielding play of the game with a leaping catch to haul down a warning-track drive by Murphy in the fourth inning.

The definition of a stopper is a starting pitcher to stops losing streaks. Tanaka did just that in ending a four-game slide and also a six-gamer at the hands of the Mets over the past two seasons. Quality pitching will do that every time.

Granderson hurts Yankees again

The Mets picked up from where they left off the previous game and put some more hurt on the battered Yankees in the first inning Tuesday night in Round 2 of the Subway Series.

Mark Teixeira, who is dealing with a tender groin, was back in the lineup as the designated hitter, but Ichiro Suzuki was still unable to take batting practice because of knee and back issues. Needing help in the outfield, the Yankees recalled Zoilo Almonte from Triple A Scranton and placed relief pitcher Shawn Kelley (back stiffness) on the 15-day disabled list. The Yankees are expected to bring up another pitcher to start Thursday night’s game at Citi Field.

Tuesday night’s starter, Vidal Nuno, had a rough time of it as he was touched for four runs in the first inning. The lefthander was wild from the start with a hit batter and walk preceding a single by David Wright for his 900th career run batted in.

Old friend Curtis Granderson wasn’t the least bit friendly to his former teammates as he drove a 1-1 pitch to right field for his fifth home run, a three-run shot, and second in two nights at Yankee Stadium. Man, he must really miss this place.

The Yankees did bounce back in the bottom of the first to put up three runs off Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who also began shakily by allowing a single to Brett Gardner and walking Derek Jeter. The rally seemed over when Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a double play, but Teixeira singled to right for one run and Brian McCann homered off a 3-2 pitch for two more.

Nuno could not make it through the fourth inning. Wright, who had a big night and extending his hitting streak to 11 games, doubled in the third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Juan Lagares. A throwing error by third baseman Yangervis Solarte on a potential double-play pivot opened the gate for another Mets run in the fourth on a sac fly by Daniel Murphy.

Murphy was even more damaging against righthander Alfredo Aceves an inning later when he smashed a towering three-run home run off the right field foul pole and not far from the top of it. If not obstructed, the ball would have landed in the upper deck, a place where precious few home runs have landed in the six-year-old structure. Who says Daniel Murphy has no power?

Injuries beginning to mount for Yankees

When losing a game to the Mets is not the worst thing that happened to the Yankees you know they are in trouble. The Mets extended their winning streak over the Yankees to five games with a 9-7 victory Monday night in one of those see-saw games that often favors the club that has last licks.

It did not work that way for the Yankees, although they did put the potential tying runs on base against Kyle Farnsworth before Brian McCann hit a smoking grounder to first base that resulted in a game-ending, 3-5-3 double play. That’s right 5. Third baseman David Wright was covering second base with an over-shift alignment on McCann.

The Yankees blew leads of 4-1 and 7-4 to the Mets, who stroked four home runs, including a two-run shot by Curtis Granderson in his return to Yankee Stadium. Travis d’Arnaud, Eric Young Jr. and Chris Young also went deep for the Mets to trump an early grand slam by Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner. Chris Young followed a broken-bat RBI single by Lucas Duda with a two-run blast to left in the eighth inning that turned the game in the Mets’ direction.

Now the really bad stuff:

Carlos Beltran had to be pinch-hit for in the seventh inning of a one-run game because he hyper-extended his right elbow between innings in the batting cage where most designated hitters spend their time preparing for future at-bats.

Ichiro Suzuki did not take batting practice perhaps for the first time in his career and was unavailable for pinch hitting or running duties due to a jammed right knee and a sore back the result of his attempt fora diving catch Sunday at Milwaukee.

Relief pitcher Shawn Kelley also has back issues and was unavailable out of the bullpen on a night when the relief corps needed major aid.

Mark Teixeira did not start at first base because of weary legs and a tender groin. He was able to pinch hit in the ninth but when he drove a liner into the corner had to settle for a single. Manager Joe Girardi said Tex likely would have made second base had his legs been normal, and that would have taken the double play out of the equation that inning.

CC Sabathia, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of fluid buildup in his right knee, was headed south to visit Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedist, for a second opinion on his condition.

Had enough? Girardi has and is trying hard not to think 2014 will be a continuation of 2013 when a franchise-record 56 players were needed to navigate through a injury-riddled season. Already this year the Yankees have used 36 players, including 19 pitchers (20 if you count infielder Dean Anna, who tossed an inning).

Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solarte, who began the season in a platoon at third base, triggered a three-run rally in the sixth inning that unlocked a 4-4 score. Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda coughed up a 4-1 lead on a solo home run in the fifth by d’Arnaud and a two-run shot in the sixth by Granderson, who just needed a shot of the Stadium to get back on track.

It was Granderson’s 65th career home run in 910 at-bats at the Stadium, an average of one every 14 at-bats. Grandy hit 63 homers at the Stadium in his four seasons with the Yankees, which accounted for 54.8 percent of his dinger output during his time here. I would have thought that percentage would be higher, but Curtis showed he could hit the long ball elsewhere than the Bronx, which should be encouraging to him.

After a messy second inning in which he gave up the salami to Gardner, Bartolo Colon settled down and pitched three scoreless innings as his team clawed back into the game. It all came apart for Colon in the sixth.

Solarte followed a one-out double by Alfonso Soriano with a single to break the tie. Johnson, playing first base for Teixeira, was credited with a triple on a drive to left-center hat was poorly played by Eric Young Jr. to score Solarte.

Johnson displayed questionable judgment in trying to score on Brian Roberts’ grounder to the left side against a drawn-in infield and was thrown out in a rundown. Gardner sent Colon packing with a dart of a single to right field that put Roberts on third. On a steal attempt by Gardner, d’Arnaud threw the ball into center field which allowed Roberts to score.

Kuroda came out of the game at the start of the seventh. Alfredo Aceves, a candidate to start Thursday night, came in on his throw day but was not sharp. He walked d’Arnaud to start the inning and one out later gave up Eric Young Jr.’s first home run of the season that got the Mets back to a run.

Daniel Murphy singled after Young’s homer. Aceves got a big out by catching Wright looking at a slider for a called third strike. With Granderson at bat and a 2-2 count, Murphy tried to steal second and was thrown out by McCann. Granderson is strikeout prone, but it did not make much sense to me to run Murphy there. It was a nice break for the Yankees on a night when not much else went their way.

Mo’s 1st blown save comes in Citi Field finale

Was that any way to treat a legend?

The Mets were nice and friendly before the game by giving Mariano Rivera gifts for his farewell appearance at Citi Field and even having him throw out the ceremonial first pitch. There were even cheers from the crowd when Mo entered the game in the bottom of the ninth to try and nail down his 19th consecutive save and give Hiroki Kuroda a deserved winning decision.

Mets players had other ideas, however, and struck hard and quickly against the game’s greatest closer. The man who threw out the first pitch ended up with his first loss of the season with the last one, off of which Lucas Duda lined a single to right field that gave the Mets their second 2-1 victory in a row over the Yankees.

There was a suddenness to all this that is not often seen against Rivera. I do not remember the last time I saw him not get a single out in an appearance. Daniel Murphy, who was frustrated throughout these two games because of Brett Gardner’s defense, got the ball rolling in the ninth with a double down the left-field line.

David Wright followed by fighting off an inside cutter and getting the ball into center field for a single that scored Murphy with the tying run that stuck Mo with his first blown save of year. Rivera also made an uncustomary mistake by not backing up the plate on Gardner’s throw home. The ball got by catcher Chris Stewart, which allowed Wright to advance into scoring position at second base. Duda’s hit came three pitches later off another inside cutter.

After being ejected for arguing an umpire’s call in the sixth inning, Mets manager Terry Collins watched the rest of the game from a video room near the clubhouse. With tapes of Rivera on the screen, Collins told Mets players who came into the room that they should be aware that Mo will be around the plate and they needed to stay inside with their swings, not to think long ball. Very sound advice, it turned out.

Rivera told reporters that his location was fine and gave the Mets credit for getting good swings against him. In a matter of minutes, the Mets stunned the game’s greatest closer and kept their phenom, Matt Harvey, from suffering his first loss of the season

Anticipated pitching duels do not always materialize. Tuesday night’s Round 2 of the Subway Series lived up to its billing, however.

Although attention from ESPN to the national television audience centered on Harvey, Kuroda stole the spotlight. Do not misunderstand me. Harvey was brilliant and showed that he has been worth all the accolades he has received. This kid is clearly the goods.

But as Yankees fans can attest, so is Kuroda. With CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes having uneven seasons and Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova having done time on the disabled list, Kuroda has been the most dependable starter in the Yanks’ rotation. He is no stranger to the Mets, whom he faced often in his National League years with the Dodgers, but he has been a much different pitcher in his games against them for the Yankees.

Kuroda was 1-5 with a 5.75 ERA against the Mets in seven starts with the Dodgers. Since taking part in the Subway Series the past two years, Kuroda has yet to give up a run to the Mets over 14 innings. The righthander scattered four singles, did not walk a batter and struck out seven in his seven innings of work. Nearly a year ago, Kuroda pitched seven shutout innings and allowed one hit in beating the Mets, 9-1, June 8, 2012 at Yankee Stadium.

Harvey made only one real mistake in his eight innings – a changeup that stayed up for Lyle Overbay, who singled home the Yankees’ only run. It was earned but somewhat tainted since Gardner got to second base after his leadoff single on an error by right fielder Marlon Byrd. Harvey allowed six hits, all singles, with no walks and 10 strikeouts.

For the second straight night, Gardner lent his glove hand in support of his pitcher. Once again, Murphy was the victim. Gardner robbed the Mets’ second baseman of a two-run home run in Monday night’s 2-1 Mets victory. The larceny this time was not as costly, but it did likely cost the Mets one run.

In the sixth inning with Ruben Tejada on first base after reaching on an error by Robinson Cano, Murphy launched a drive to left-center where Gardner raced over and made a lunging, one-handed grab to ruin a bid for an extra-base hit. Tejada almost certainly would have scored had the ball not been caught. Tejada moved to second on a passed ball by Stewart, but Kuroda teamed with shortstop Reid Brignac for an inning-ending pickoff, which was hotly contested by Collins, who got the boot.

Murphy would get revenge on Gardner in the bottom of the ninth by beating his throw home to give the Mets life and head the Yankees toward their first three-game losing streak of the season. The Subway Series moves to the Bronx Wednesday night. It has been a bumpy ride so far.

Gardner pulled off an ‘Endy Chavez play’

I remember the first time I walked out on the field at Citi Field the year it opened in 2009 and looked at the left field wall and thought what a mistake the Mets made. Instead of an eight-foot high fence such as the one at old Shea Stadium, the same area at Citi Field had a 16-foot wall that resembled the old San Diego Stadium, later known as Jack Murphy Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium.

Whatever name the San Diego yard had, it was a lousy idea to have such a wall around the outfield because it took away the possibility of an outfielder making a home run-robbing catch. I remember Dave Winfield making a fence-climbing grab in left field at Yankee Stadium during a playoff game in 1981 and telling me afterwards, “I couldn’t have done that in San Diego.”

In the same vein, one of the Mets’ greatest postseason moments at Shea could not have occurred at Citi Field in its first three seasons. Left fielder Endy Chavez’s leaping, glove-extending grab of a drive by Scott Rolen denied the Cardinals third baseman a two-run home run in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series.

I covered that game for MLB.com and recall writing a story that rated Chavez’s play with those of other New York outfielders in postseason play, such as the World Series catches by the Dodgers’ Al Gionfriddo off the Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio in 1947, the Giants’ Willie Mays off the Indians’ Vic Wertz in 1954, the Dodgers’ Sandy Amoros off the Yankees’ Yogi Berra in 1955, the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle off the Dodgers’ Gil Hodges in 1956, the two beauties by the Mets’ Tommie Agee off the Orioles’ Elrod Hendricks and Paul Blair in 1969 and the Yankees’ Paul O’Neill’s hamstring-straining, game-ending rundown of a drive by the Braves’ Luis Polonia in 1996.

Although the Mets eventually lost the game and the series, Chavez’s catch has been defined as the greatest defensive play in Shea’s history, with only Ron Swoboda’s belly-flop snaring of a Brooks Robinson liner in Game 4 of the 1969 World Series qualifying as a rival, another play to which I referred in the 2006 NLCS story.

All of this came to mind Monday night when Yankees center fielder Brett Gardner took away a potential two-run home run by Daniel Murphy in the sixth inning that preserved at the time a 1-0 lead for the Bombers. Gardner was able to make such a smashing play because the Mets had the good sense to change the dimensions prior to the 2012 season.

Part of the reason for the change was that Mets right-handed hitters, particularly David Wright, the face of the franchise, were getting psyched out by the unfriendly distances. Wright and his pals would continually watch well-struck drives turn into 400-foot outs. But the best part may have been the erection of an eight-foot fence in front of the previous one. It created a party deck that has been a featured seating section and has allowed the outfielders to have a chance to act like Jesse James once in a while.

“Thank goodness it’s a part of the park where it’s a fence, not a wall,” Gardner said after the game. “The poles out there have got some pretty good pads in front of them, so I’m fine. It wouldn’t be as difficult if I was a little taller [5-foot-10]. You’ve just got to hope that you’re able to get a good clean jump. You want to get back there close to the fence as possible, but you don’t want to run into the fence or hit the fence on the way up. I was able to time it just right.”

It was a gem of a play, one that pitcher Phil Hughes called the best catch he ever saw from the mound. It certainly was reminiscent of the play Chavez made. Unfortunately for the Yankees, it was also similar to Chavez’s play in that the opposition came back to win the game.

Mets prevail in rare bullpen failure by Yankees

Wasn’t the pitchers’ duel in this series supposed to be Tuesday night? That is when the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda goes up against the Mets’ prized rookie, Matt Harvey. Subway Series fans got a pitchers’ duel in Monday night’s opener as an appetizer with the Yankees’ Phil Hughes and the Mets’ Jonathan Niese matching zeroes for five innings.

The spell was broken in the sixth by Brett Gardner, who helped the Yankees take the lead and then kept them in front in the bottom half of the inning. Gardner led off the sixth against Niese with a slicing drive down the left field line where Lucas Duda attempted a diving catch but could not get there in time. As the ball rolled behind him, Gardner put on the jets and ended up with a triple.

Jayson Nix, playing the shortstop position that Derek Jeter had previously manned in all previous Subway Series, delivered Gardner to the plate with his second hit of the game, a single to center. Niese recovered nicely by getting Robinson Cano to ground into a double play.

Gardner got into the act again in the bottom of the sixth. With Niese, who had two of the four hits off Hughes, on first base and two out, Daniel Murphy hit a drive to deep left-center where Gardner made a leaping catch to rob the second baseman of a home run that would have given the Mets the lead. Gardner’s glove was above the orange line atop the fence that signals a home run when he gloved Murphy’s clout.

Hughes’ good fortune ended at the top of the seventh, however, when David Wright, who had tripled with two out in the first inning but was stranded, drove a 2-2 fastball to left-center for his seventh home run that tied the score. Gardner would have needed a crane to stop that one.

Hughes and Niese both came out of the game after the seventh inning and had similar pitching lines in terrific efforts that did not warrant no-decisions. Hughes allowed one run and four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. Niese gave up one run, eight hits and one walk with four K’s. Kuroda and Harvey would love to post such lines Tuesday night.

This game ended up in the bullpen, which is usually to the Yankees’ advantage, but the Mets’ 2-1 victory was at the expense of David Robertson, who had a shaky eighth inning, as the Yankees lost for the first time this season in 23 games in which they had the lead after the sixth. D-Rob gave up a one-out double to Mike Baxter and compounded the situation by walking pinch hitter Jordany Valdespin.

A passed ball by Chris Stewart advanced the runners to second and third. The Yankees got the second out when Baxter tried to score on a contact play and was thrown out by Robinson Cano on a close call at the plate. Murphy, hoping to get another important at-bat after losing a homer to Gardner, knocked in the deciding run with a line single to center.

As he broke from the box, Murphy tossed his bat in a sort of tomahawk fashion. The Mets have had issues this year with players flipping bats, notably Valdespin, who has irritated some clubs.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi defused the situation by saying, “I don’t have an issue with it. It’s an emotional game. I would only have a problem with it if a player is trying to show up a team.”

Home runs + quality pitching = success

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has finally admitted publicly what we all pretty much new. The Yankees need to hit the ball out of the ballpark to win games. All there struggles hitting with runners in scoring position point to that. Despite batting .217 in clutch situations, the Yankees are in first place in the American League East largely because of two elements – quality pitching and power hitting, both of which were on display Saturday night.

The Yanks guaranteed their winning of this year’s the Subway Series with a stirring, come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. It was all Mets for six innings until the Yankees began hitting the ball over the fence. They have taken four of five games from the Mets this year, which turns Sunday night’s series finale into merely a marquee match-up between CC Sabathia and R.A. Dickey.

Raul Ibanez’s three-run home run in the seventh inning off Chris Young was the Yankees’ only hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position in this series, but it was a big one. It tied the score after the Yankees had looked pretty lifeless for six innings. One out later, Eric Chavez got a pinch-hit homer, the first of his career, to put the Yankees ahead.

The Yanks’ bullpen handled the rest. Spelling Ivan Nova over the final 3 1/3 innings, winning pitcher Clay Rapada (2-0), Cody Eppley, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano (14th save) combined to hold the Mets to two hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. From the third out of the sixth through the second out of the ninth, all eight of those outs by the Mets were on strikeouts. In all, the Mets struck out 15 times in the game.

Rapada came on for Nova and ended the sixth with a strikeout of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who had homered three innings earlier, after the Mets had gone up, 3-0. Logan inherited a one-out, runner on third situation in the seventh and struck out two left-handed hitters, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy. Robertson had a no-contact eighth with two walks and three strikeouts.

Soriano had two strikeouts sandwiched around a single by David Wright before Murphy excited the record Citi Field crowd of 42,122 with a fly ball to the warning track in right where it nestled in the glove of Nick Swisher. No leap at the wall this time.

“We’re a home run-hitting club,” Girardi had said Friday night when three Yankees home runs were not enough to avoid a 6-4 loss. “We are who we are. There are basketball clubs that are built around 3-point shooting and when they don’t make their 3’s they don’t win. If we hit two- and three-run homers, we usually win games.”

Plainer truth could not be spoken about the 2012 Yankees. They lead the majors in homers with 110 in 70 games, including 32 over their past 18 games. The Yankees are 41-15 when they hit at least one home run and 30-7 when they hit more than one. In games when they fail to go yard, the Yankees are 1-13. They have out-homered the Mets this year, 13-4.

But let us not forget pitching. The Yankees made sure that fans remember that aspect in helping to end a three-game losing streak and ensuring bragging rights over the Mets for another year.