YANKEES 5, METS 4
Amid all the chatter about the struggles of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez and talk about the team not hitting with runners in scoring position, Russell Martin was slumping worse than any of the Yankees and it was something he was suffering through silently.
He went to hitting coach Kevin Long and they worked on some adjustments and quietly they have been paying off since May 20. For the Yankees those adjustments looked golden on Sunday but for the Mets they were a source of some painful heartbreak.
Martin blasted a huge two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Mets at 3-2. Two innings later, Martin led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off solo home run that gave the Yankees a home Subway Series sweep over the luckless crosstown Mets.
The Mets, who had led the game since the second inning 3-0, surrendered the lead in the bottom of the eighth but managed to tie it in the ninth by putting a run across off closer Rafael Soriano for his first blown save of the season.
So the Mets sent reliever Jon Rauch to the mound in the ninth and Martin managed to battle him into a 3-2 count. Rauch hung a slider and Martin deposited the mistake into the seats in left-field for his second homer of the game and his eighth of the season.
A sellout crowd of 49,010 at Yankee Stadium rose to its feet cheering as Martin headed around third toward a sea of pinstripes waiting at home plate to greet him. But Martin mistimed his leap and stumbled across home plate with the run that nonetheless gave the Yankees a huge leg up on their annual six-game home-and-away series with the rival Mets.
Boone Logan (1-0), who rescued Soriano from a first-and-third with one out jam in the top of the ninth by striking out pinch-hitter Josh Thole looking and retiring Kirk Nieuwenhuis on a hard-hit grounder Robinson Cano saved from rolling into right-field to score the tie-breaking, got credit for the victory.
Rauch (3-6) was saddled with the loss.
The late-inning drama overshadowed a superb effort by Mets left-hander Jonathon Niese, who had shut out the Yankees through 6 2/3 innings only to be hurt by a throwing error by David Wright on a grounder off the bat of Andruw Jones. Three pitches later, Martin was able to shoot a lined shot to the right-field wall over the glove of a leaping Scott Hairston. The ball struck the padding of the top of the wall in right-field and was caught by a fan in the first row for a home run.
So Niese ended the day having given up two runs (neither earned) on seven hits and one walk and he struck out six batters.
Meanwhile, the Mets used a combination of well-placed hits, some questionable umpiring and an error to bat around in the second inning against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte.
Hairston led off the frame with a double to left-field. One out later, Vinny Rottino rolled a ground ball just past Jayson Nix at short to score Hairston to give the Mets an early 1-0 lead.
Pettitte then threw a 3-2 pitch to Omar Quintanilla that looked to be over the plate at the knees on the outside corner. However, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski called it a ball. Then Mike Nickeas rolled a ball up the middle and Cano – in his haste to turn a double play – had the ball carom off his glove for an error that loaded the bases.
No. 9 hitter Jordany Valdespin, who entered play on Sunday hitting .133, then inside-outed a ball just past Teixeira at first to increase the Mets’ lead to 3-0.
Pettitte walked Andres Torres but got out of further trouble by striking out both Jason Bay and Wright swinging.
Pettitte recovered to pitch three scoreless innings but left the game after six innings because of a bruised pitching hand he sustained when he bare-handed a hard-hit one-hopper off the bat of Hairston to open the inning. Pettitte completed the inning but left the game to have some precautionary X-rays.
He gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and he fanned eight.
The Yankees, meanwhile, down 3-2 in the eighth, preyed upon the departure of Niese, the weakness of the Mets’ bullpen and some more shoddy infield play.
Derek Jeter opened the inning against Mets reliever Bobby Parnell with a slow roller to Quintanilla at short. The ball rolled under his glove and into shallow center while Jeter legged it into second base with an infield single and an error. Curtis Granderson followed with a sharp single to right that advanced Jeter to third.
The Mets inexplicably decided not to deploy a shift on the lefty-swinging Teixeira and he made them pay by rolling a ball up the middle to score Jeter with the tying run and Granderson advanced to third.
Rodriguez then gave the Yankees their first lead of the day by blooping a well-placed single into shallow right-field just out of the reach of Valdespin to score Granderson.
However, the lead was short-lived when Lucas Duda greeted Soriano in the ninth with a double over the head of Granderson in center and slumping first baseman Ike Davis followed a double of his own to the wall in right-center.
After Quintanilla grounded into a fielder’s choice in which Nix deftly threw to third to nip a sliding, pinch-hitter Daniel Murphy singled to right and Soriano was replaced with Logan.
Logan’s escape from the one-out jam set the stage for Martin’s heroics in the bottom of the ninth.
The Yankee have now defeated the Mets in 52 of 87 contests in the Subway Series and it gave them their first home sweep of the series since 2003.
The Yankees are now 34-35 on the season and they remain a half-game back of the Rays in second place in the American League East. The Mets dropped to 32-29.
- Martin served notice that his season-long slump is definitely over. Martin was 2-for-4 with the two home runs and three very important RBIs. As of May 20, Martin was hitting .168. Since that time, he is 15-for-47 (.319) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. He has raised his batting average to .216 and .222 is his season high.
- Logan bailed out Soriano and the Yankees with some excellent clutch pitching in the ninth to retire Thole and Niewenhuis with the go-ahead runner at third and one out. Logan has not been scored upon since May 20, which spans 3 1/3 innings in his last eight appearances. He has been scored upon in only four of his 29 games this season and his season ERA is now 2.66.
- Clutch eighth-inning singles by Teixeira and Rodriguez are welcome sights to Yankee fans after watching them largely fail in those situations in the first two months of the season. Rodriguez had an RBI in each of the three weekend games and he has six RBIs this month after driving in only eight runs in May. Teixeira had only 20 RBIs on May 22, since then he has 16 in his last 18 games.
- Nick Swisher wins the “Bonehead Player of the Game” award handily. With two on and no outs in the second inning he took it upon himself to bunt to get the runners over despite the fact the Mets could have chose to walk Jones intentionally to pitch to Martin and Nix to get out of the jam. But he compounded that mistake by bunting the ball right to Niese, who threw Rodriguez out at third by a country mile. Swisher later grounded into a double play after Cano had singled in the seventh. Swisher was 0-for-4 in the game and his season average fell to .247.
- Cano’s error in the second inning really hurt Pettitte and the Yankees. In what could have been at least a force play and at most a double play, the Yankees got nothing and Valdespin followed with his two-run double. A Gold Glove second baseman has to make that play. It was only Cano’s third error of the season but, boy, did it hurt.
- Soriano was 9-for-9 in save opportunities until Sunday. The run he gave up was his first since a May 10 game at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. Soriano, who spent a portion of 2010 on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder, blew three saves in five opportunities last season.
X-rays on Pettitte’s left hand showed no damage but the hand was bandaged as a precaution. Pettitte said his hand was bruised and swollen but it would not prevent him from making his next scheduled start in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday. . . . Right-hander Freddy Garcia rejoined the team on Sunday after attending his grandfather’s funeral in Venezuela. He was activated from the bereavement list and reliever Ryota Igarashi was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will embark on a six-game road trip that starts in Atlanta with a three-game series that opens on Monday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (7-2, 5.09 ERA) will open the series on the hill for the Yankees. Nova limited the Rays to one run on four hits in eight-plus innings in what may have been his best major-league outing. Nova has never faced the Braves.
The Braves will start right-hander Randall Delgado (4-5, 4.26 ERA). In his last start, Delgado gave up one run on two hits over 6 1/3 innings against the Marlins. He walked one and set a career high with seven strikeouts. Delgado has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.