Mets 3, Yankees 2
NEW YORK (AP)—With the bunt sign on, Endy Chavez took a ball from Andy Pettitte. Then manager Willie Randolph signaled for Chavez to swing away, and the light-hitting New York Mets outfielder connected for his first home run of the year.
It’s been that kind of season for the Mets—and Yankees.
Chavez’s go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth inning led the Mets to a 3-2 victory Friday night in this year’s Subway Series opener and dropped their crosstown rival 10 games back in the AL East for the first time in the Joe Torre era.
“I had a feeling about the situation,” Randolph said.
Chavez also threw out Johnny Damon trying to stretch a game-opening hit to left into a double, and the Yankees’ sputtering offense rarely threatened after that.
Oliver Perez (5-3) limited the Yankees to Hideki Matsui’s two-run homer in the fourth, another stellar start in a remarkable turnaround for a pitcher who went 3-13 in the regular season last year. After Matsui’s homer, the Yankees didn’t get a runner past first base.
“I know it means a lot to a lot of people,” Chavez said. “I think they take it personal. It’s special because it’s like fighting for the city.”
It’s been a reversal of fortune for both teams in the Big Apple this season.
Coming off their first NL East title since 1988, the Mets (27-14) opened a two-game lead over second-place Atlanta. The Yankees (18-22), who have won nine straight AL East titles, fell 10 games behind division-leading Boston. The Yankees had not been double digits back in the division since they trailed the Red Sox by 10 games after play on Sept. 22, 1995, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“I guess if you’re here long enough, that stuff is going to happen to you,” said Torre, who became the Yankees’ manager after the 1995 season. “We still need to just get our house in order without worrying about who we’re chasing at this point in time.”
The Yankees dropped to 3-8 when the opponent starts a left-hander and have lost six of eight overall. After this series, they host the Red Sox for three games.
The Yankees, whose 26 World Series titles dwarf the Mets’ two, entered with a 32-22 advantage over their Queens foe in interleague play, and they beat the Mets in five games in the 2000 World Series. The Mets’ record is 8 1/2 games better than that of the Yankees—before this year, the biggest margin the Mets had held since interleague play began was 3 1/2 games in July 2000, according to Elias.
In the high-intensity cauldron of the Subway Series, Perez kept his cool on a 52-degree night, giving up five hits in 7 2-3 innings, striking out five and walking two.
“They hit me hard but on the ground,” he said.
When he was replaced by Joe Smith with none on after striking out pinch-hitter Bobby Abreu and Johnny Damon, Perez made an emphatic leap over the first-base line, then tipped his cap to the boisterous sellout crowd of 56,337.
Smith threw a called third strike past Derek Jeter that left the Yankees’ captain discussing the pitch with plate umpire Greg Gibson, and Wagner finished to remain perfect in 10 save chances.
After Matsui beat out an infield single with two outs, Wagner fanned Giambi on a slider that ended a nine-pitch at-bat.
“It was a tough pitch to lay off of because it started out down the middle of the plate and fell off the table,” Wagner said. “It was the best pitch I threw all night.”
Pettitte (2-3) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings. He is 1-2 in his last four starts despite not allowing more than three runs in any of them.
“We’ve got about as talented a group of guys as there is,” Pettitte said. “Sooner or later we’re going to put it together. It’s just frustrating while you’re in it.”
Perez had some trouble in the first. After Damon was thrown out by Chavez, Perez walked Jeter, then walked Jorge Posada with two outs. Matsui ended the inning with a lineout to second.
“Luck just doesn’t happen,” Damon said. “We’re trying to create some things out there. He made a perfect play. It’s unfortunate.”
Matsui followed Posada’s one-out single in the fourth with just his third homer of the season, his first since May 4. The 2-1 lead didn’t last long—Paul Lo Duca doubled in the fifth and Chavez turned on an 88 mph fastball and sent it over the right-field wall for his first home run since Sept. 30.
“I’m always on him about trying to hit home runs in batting practice, but it came in handy this time,” Randolph said.
That was enough. In their last seven losses, the Yankees have scored three runs or fewer.
“It’s puzzling,” said Alex Rodriguez, who was 0-for-4 and has one homer and five RBIs in May. “We sound like a recorder about every time a pitcher dominates us.”
Giambi, hampered by a foot injury, has one hit in his last 25 at-bats. … Chavez is batting .341 (14-for-41) in 11 starts this year. … At 2 hours, 18 minutes, it was the fastest game of the year for both teams.