The Yanks bombed the Mets twice yesterday at the Stadium, winning the first match-up of the season between the crosstown rivals. They remain five-and-a-half games in front of the Red Sox who defeated the Phillies in Boston on Sunday afternoon. In the first game in the Bronx, Jose Contreras performed well, striking out a career-high ten in six innings of work. (His wife and two children were in the house to watch him pitch.) He allowed two hits and walked four. Both of the Mets who had hits off of Contreras were thrown out stealing by John Flaherty. Contreras got into trouble in the fourth and fifth innings, but with a little help from his friends--the Yankees have many meetings on the mound when Contreras is in a jam--was able to escape without any damage being done.
In the fourth, Kenny Lofton made a glaring one-out error, dropping a ball that was hit directly at him, and then Mike Piazza drew a walk. But Contreras struck the next two men out to end the frame. In the next inning, Contreras walked the bases loaded. With two out, the count went full to Kaz Matsui, who fouled a ball off before flying out to left field to end the threat. Contreras was also aided by Brian Runge's liberal strike zone. The Mets hitters were not pleased, notably Jose Reyes who posed, hands on his hips, after being called out on strikes for the second time.
Derek Jeter and Gary Sheffield hit back-to-back solo dingers off of Steve Traschel in the first, and Jeter smacked another solo homer in his second at bat. But Traschel settled down and pitched reasonably well. However, the last two men he faced reached base and eventually scored when Godziller Matsui hit Mike Stanton's first pitch into the bleachers for a grand slam. Flash Gordon pitched the final two innings for the Yanks.
Jason Giambi was a late scratch due to illness. Giambi has been fighting a virus for several weeks and was taken to the hospital. He was suffering from dehydration and was treated with fluids. I thought we might hear whispers in the morning papers about Giambi not being a gamer--especially after being called out by Boss George for a fielding mistake on Saturday afternoon--but so far, I haven't heard anything to that effect.
Game Two started off well for the Yankees. Bernie Williams led-off against Matt Ginter and slapped a ball through the box. It was well struck but Ginter got a glove on it. The Mets pitcher couldn't handle it though, Williams reached first, and was awarded a base hit--a home-field call if there ever was one. Next, Ginter threw a purpose pitch at Jeter--3-4 in the first game--which nailed the Yankees' captain in the hand. Jeter was not pleased.
My adreneline was spiked as Gary Sheffield walked to the plate and I thought, "There isn't anyone I'd rather see in this spot than Sheff." Sheffield responded by lashing a single into left, a measure of revenge for the Yanks. Then Alex Rodriguez topped a 2-2 offering slowly down the third base line for a cheap infield hit scoring Jeter, a demoralizing moment for the Mets. Rodriguez's face was flush as he stood on first, but he'll take it. After Matsui whiffed on three pitches, Jorge Posada singled to left scoring another run and then Ruben Sierra launched a three-run bomb to right.
The Mets chipped away. Mike Cameron lined a solo home run, and Richard Hidalgo smoked two monster solo bombs--one to straight-away center, another deep into the Yankees bullpen. They were shots. (Not for nothing but Eric Valent launched one into the upper deck in right later too.) If the Mets were unhappy with the balls and strikes in Game One, it was the Yankees turn to be miffed in the second game. Gary Sheffield got himself tossed in the fourth inning riffing with home plate ump Bill Hohn; Mike Mussina was fuming all evening in his own quiet way too. The Mets actually closed the gap to 7-5 in the seventh. But the Bombers loaded the bases and Mike Stanton was called on again. This time, Ruben Sierra reached out and poked a good curve ball into left, scoring two more runs. One batter later, Miguel Cairo singled up the middle, the Yanks were ahead 11-5 and the game was out of reach.