YANKEES 4, METS 3
When the Yankees signed 40-year-old Raul Ibanez and 35-year-old Eric Chavez practically on the eve of the beginning of spring training it appeared the older battle-tested veterans might have been just an afterthought.
But on Saturday night the two lefty swingers were front and center as they powered the team back from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 lead in practically the blink of an eye in the seventh inning as the Yankees stunned the Mets and the largest crowd to ever attend a game at Citi Field.
Mets right-hander Chris Young was cruising heading into the seventh inning but Ibanez cracked a line-drive three-run home run just over the wall in the corner of right-field that tied the score and sent Young packing for the night. One out later, Chavez stroked his first career pinch-hit home run to the opposite field corner in left off reliever Jon Rauch (3-7) that gave the Yankees their final margin of victory.
Lefty specialist Clay Rapada (2-0) struck out Kirk Niewenhuis with two runners on base in relief of starter Ivan Nova to get credit for the victory.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 15 chances.
The Yankees entered play leading the major leagues in home runs with 106 and they have scored 52 percent of their runs this season via the longball.
Young, however, baffled the Yankees over six scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out four.
But Yoong opened the seventh by walking Mark Teixiera one pitch after catcher Josh Thole dropped a foul tip. Nick Swisher then lined a single into right that Lucas Duda misplayed into a double. It was the 1,000th hit of Swisher’s career.
Ibanez then laced a first-pitch fastball at the knees on a line just over the right-field wall. A huge portion of the sellout crowd of 42,122 erupted in cheers as Ibanez circled the bases with his 11th home run of the season.
Those cheers reached deafening levels one out later when Chavez, pinch-hitting for Rapada, tomahawked a shoulder high fastball on the outside corner and it carried over the wall in left. It was Chavez’s fifth home run of the season.
Up to that point, the Mets seemed intent on ending Nova’s streak of 16 road starts without a loss and 11 straight victories.
Niewenhuis led off the third inning with a line-drive opposite field home run similar to Chavez’s to give the Mets an early lead.
One inning later, the Mets took advantage of some uncharacteristic shoddy Yankee defense to push across an unearned run.
Scott Hairston reached on a fielding error by Alex Rodriguez to open the inning. Omar Quintanilla followed with a double to center and Thole plated Hairston on an infield groundout.
Nova was further frustrated by the Mets in the sixth when some logical strategy backfired on the Yankees and him.
With two out and Daniel Murphy on second with a double, Nova chose to walk Thole intentionally and pitch to a weak-hitting Young. However, Young foiled the strategy with his first hit of the season, a solid lined single to right, that scored Murphy and chased Nova.
Nova gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he fanned seven batters in 5 2/3 innings. But he Yankees’ rally managed to keep his road winning streak intact.
With the victory, the Yankees tied the road portion of the Subway Series and they clinched the 2012 version of the series by winning their fourth game against the Mets in five contests.
The Yankees’ season record improved to 41-28 as they snapped a three-game losing streak. They also moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Mets fell to 39-33.
- Ibanez was originally signed to just be the team’s left-handed designated hitter. But the right elbow injury sustained by Brett Gardner that has sidelined him since mid-April has meant Ibanez has had to play more in the outfield. That, in turn, has allowed manager Joe Girardi to use Rodriguez at DH more and play Chavez in the field. The results have been good as Ibanez has 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Chavez, meanwhile, is hitting .267 with five home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Boone Logan deserves major kudos for his work in the seventh inning. Logan was brought into the game with the potential tying run in Jordany Valdespin on third and one out and lefty swingers Duda and Murphy due up. Logan fanned both batters swinging and ended the threat. Logan is having a fine season. He is 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA and he leads the team in holds with nine.
- The bullpen as a whole was as good as always. Rapada, Cody Eppley, Logan, David Robertson and Soriano combined to pitch 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, giving up two hits and two walks and striking out an amazing eight Mets. Though Robertson walked two batters in the eighth, he ended up striking out the side.
- The “Big Four” power bats of Curtis Granderson, Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Teixiera, who were batting two through five in the order, respectively, were a combined 0-for-9 with a pair of walks against Young. That is a big reason why the Yankees’ offense sputtered over the first six innings.
- Derek Jeter botched a routine potential double-play grounder off the bat of Hairston in the second but it did not cost the Yankees because Nova got Young on a strikeout with the bases loaded. But Rodriguez’s error in the fourth did cost the Yankees a run. This is unusual for the Yankees, who lead the major leagues with the fewest errors (29 including the two on Saturday) and in fielding percentage.
- To add to Rodriguez’s woes, he was 0-for-4 on the night and three balls did not leave the infield. His batting average has now dropped to .265 and he is hitting a woeful .219 this month.
Starting catcher Russell Martin left the game in the ninth inning with what Girardi termed as “back stiffness.” Martin was pinch-hit for in the ninth by Dewayne Wise and backup Chris Stewart caught the ninth inning. Because Stewart normally catches CC Sabathia, Martin was not going to start on Sunday. It is unclear how severe the injury is at this time and if Martin will be available to back up Stewart. Martin felt tightness in his lower back during batting practice but played anyway and was 0-for 3 in the game.
The Yankees will attempt to win the rubber game of the road portion of the Subway Series on Sunday.
Sabathia (9-3, 3.55 ERA) will be going for his 10th victory. Sabathia threw his first complete game of the season in his last start against the Atlanta Braves on Monday. He did not face the Mets at Yankee Stadium but is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA against them in his career.
The Mets will counter with knuckleballing right-hander R.A. Dickey (11-1, 2.00 ERA). Dickey is 6-0 with an 0.18 ERA in his last six starts and he is coming off two consecutive one-hit complete games. Dickey is 3-1 with 2.30 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.