Yankees 8, Mets 1; Yankees 11, Mets 6
NEW YORK (AP)—The hugs and kisses said it all for Jose Contreras.
With his family looking on, he became the dominating pitcher the New York Yankees expected all along.
Making his first start since his wife and children defected from Cuba last week, Contreras struck out a career-high 10 in six shutout innings, beating the New York Mets 8-1 Sunday in the opener of a day-night doubleheader sweep.
“I thought my dad was going to win,” said 11-year-old Naylan Contreras, watching her father pitch in the major leagues for the first time.
In the second game, Mike Mussina (9-4) improved to 8-0 in his last 11 starts with an 11-6 victory, matching his career high for consecutive wins. The Yankees have a 5 1/2 -game lead in the AL East heading into their three-game series with Boston.
Ruben Sierra hit a three-run homer in a six-run first off Matt Ginter (1-2) and added a two-run single in the seventh after the Mets closed to 7-5. Miguel Cairo hit a solo homer and had a two-run single for the Yankees, who beat the Mets twice in the same day for the third time since interleague play began in 1997.
Rebounding from a 9-3 loss in Saturday’s Subway Series opener, the Yankees have won nine of their last 10 against their crosstown rival.
“Today was a tough day for us,” Mets manager Art Howe said. “They took it to us both games.”
At a tender news conference between games, Contreras was accompanied by wife Miriam and their two daughters. While Naylan sat on her mother’s lap, the pitcher sat next to them holding 3-year-old Naylenis, repeatedly kissing her head and squeezing her after she nodded off and fell asleep.
He dedicated his win to his family and to “the people of Cuba who support me.”
“During the game, I didn’t think about my family,” he said through a translator. “I concentrated on getting one out after another. I knew after the game my family would be here.”
And that presence, he said, “gave me more motivation.”
Contreras stifled the Mets on two hits until cramps in his forearm and thumb forced him out three pitches into the seventh. He frustrated the Mets so much that Ty Wigginton broke his own bat in half after he struck out in the third inning, then flung the two pieces.
Derek Jeter, who turned 30 a day earlier, backed Contreras with a pair of solo homers against Steve Trachsel (7-6), and Gary Sheffield homered for the second straight day. Hideki Matsui added an eighth-inning grand slam on the first pitch after former Yankee Mike Stanton entered.
Signed to a $32 million, four-year contract after defecting from Cuba in October 2002, Contreras (5-3) has showed flashes of brilliance with the Yankees but has been maddeningly inconsistent. He often talked of how much he missed his family, and Yankees manager Joe Torre said that his family situation might have contributed to his trouble adjusting.
Contreras’ family left Cuba on a 31-foot boat last Sunday night and were captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Big Pine Key, Fla., the following morning. Contreras was reunited with them Tuesday night in Miami Beach, and they looked on from a mezzanine luxury suite on a sunny summer afternoon. His youngest daughter ate cotton candy.
“It tasted great,” she said, also through a translator.
He allowed a single to Jose Reyes, his first batter, who promptly was caught stealing by catcher John Flaherty. Contreras then retired 10 in a row— including four straight on strikeouts—until center fielder Kenny Lofton dropped Kaz Matsui’s easy fly in the fourth.
Mike Cameron got the Mets’ second hit, a leadoff single in the fifth, but he, too, was thrown out at second by Flaherty. Contreras then walked the bases loaded—the four walks tied his career high—but he got out of trouble when Matsui flied out on a 3-2 pitch.
“I was very tense,” Miriam Contreras said. “As the game progressed and Jose was striking batters out, I was able to relax a little bit.”
Contreras said the cramp was not serious and came from throwing forkballs. Jeter, who had the fourth multihomer game of his career, wasn’t concerned at all with Contreras’ results.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care how he pitched,” Jeter said. “I’mjust happy for him. He’s got a big smile on his face.”
Yankees 1B Jason Giambi, in a 1-for-14 slide, has a viral illness and went to a hospital during the opener to receive two bottles of intravenous fluids, then returned to the ballpark. “I was in la-la land,” he said. … Yankees RHP Kevin Brown (back spasm) will need at least one more bullpen session before he can be activated. After his bullpen Sunday night, Torre said: “He just didn’t have the life he had last time out.” … Hidalgo homered twice in the second game—the first broke the electric “ConEdison On It” sign behind the CF fence—it read “ConE On It.” Cameron and Eric Valent also homered. … Mets C Tom Wilson and reliever Jose Parra were forced to wear black home jerseys with “Mets” in the second game because the team forgot the road ones their teammates wore, which had “New York” on it. … In the night game, Sheffield was ejected for arguing a checked swing. … The seventh inningtook 53 minutes.