The Yankees didn't score last night, and they didn't win. They did manage to put eight runners on against Oliver Perez, getting a man as far as second base in each of the game's first four innings, but Perez rallied to strike out Bobby Abreu, and Alex Rodriguez in the first, Melky Cabrera in the second, and Jorge Posada in the third. Meanwhile a big fly to center in the third that looked like a two-run home run off Alex Rodriguez's bat fell short and into Carlos Beltran's glove.
Indeed, the Mets played fantastic defense all night. The key play came in the bottom of the fourth. After Hideki Matsui took six straight pitches to draw a leadoff walk, Perez walked Robinson Cano on four more tosses. Josh Phelps, DHing in place of late-scratch Johnny Damon, then took ball one, but swung through ball two to even the count before working it full and flying out to right for the first out. Miguel Cairo followed by looking at strike one, then yanking Perez's next pitch to the top of the Cannon sign in the left field corner. Rookie Carlos Gomez, who showed his lightening speed in the third inning by reaching on a bunt single, stealing second, then scoring the game's first run on a Jose Reyes single, drifted back to the wall and made nice leaping catch a foot above the wall to take a would-be three-run home run away from Cairo. Gomez then fired a one-hop strike from the wall to second base to double off Matsui, who had inexplicably ranged almost all the way to third base.
That ended the Yankee threat in both that inning and for the game. Reyes hit the only curveball Roger Clemens threw all night for a solo home run in the top of the fifth and Perez set the next ten Yankees down in order before a one-out Derek Jeter double in the eighth ended his evening. Jeter was followed by a shot off Bobby Abreu's bat that imitated Alex Rodriguez's third-inning fly out almost exactly--a two-run homer off the bat that died in deep center and settled in to Carlos Beltran's glove. That was the last gasp. 2-0 Mets.
As for Clemens, he pitched well again, striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings and, other than Reyes's homer of his lone curveball, allowing only six singles, two of them on bunts, and walked one. This was my first look at the 44-year-old version of Clemens and I can't say I was terribly impressed, but you can't argue with the results (12 1/3 IP, 12 H, 3 BB, 15 K, 3.65 ERA). Clemens looks a little chunky and his fastball now tops out at 91 miles per hour. According to the YES broadcasters, however, Andy Pettitte says that's as fast as it's going to get and that he wasn't throwing any harder in Houston, where he posted a 2.40 ERA over three seasons. Instead Clemens's game is now location and the still nasty Mr. Splitee, which was indeed his outpitch again last night (just ask Carlos Delgado). Hey, with Wang and Pettitte cruising, Clemens only needs to be one of the top three guys, not the full-blown ace, and the sort of performances he's turned in in his first two starts this season are everything the Yankees had hoped for, and he's likely still tuning up.
Today, the Yankees throw a pitcher 22 1/2 years Clemens' junior at the Mets. Tyler Clippard made his major league debut at Shea, holding the Mets to one run on three hits and three walks (one intentional) while striking out six in six innings and earning the win. Clippard hasn't been quite that good since, but he's shown flashes. Unfortunately, he's coming off his worst major league outing (3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 6 R), which came against the lowly Pirates. He'll have to rebound from that this afternoon to keep the Yankees from thinking about spinning that fifth-spot revolving door again.
Clippard's opposite number, 19 years his senior, is also coming off his worst outing of the year. Tom Galvine was lit up by the Tigers for nine runs on 11 hits and a pair of walks in 4 1/3 innings last weekend. Otherwise, he's been remarkably consistent, turning in ten quality starts in his previous 13 games, only once failing to complete six innings and only twice allowing as many as four earned runs. Glavine's job is not in danger.
In the big picture, the Yankees need a win today to avoid slipping back down to .500 and to have a chance to keep their four-series winning streak going.