There were several times tonight when Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka appeared to be in control of the game. Unfortunately, his one major flaw emerged with Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy launching a pair of solo homers off him that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead that they did not relinquish.
The game started off well for the Yanks, as Brett Gardner walked and Carlos Beltran singled him to third with one out. Chris Young, subbing for Jacoby Ellsbury with a righty on the mound, rewarded Joe Girardi's faith in him by lifting a fly ball to center deep enough to score Gardner. Mets starter Steven Matz appeared rattled, especially when Greg Bird blooped a single the other way to put another man in scoring position. However, John Ryan Murphy grounded out to end the threat. While they put several more baserunners on after the first, the Yankees struggled to mount other legitimate scoring opportunities.
Another chance was missed an inning later when Tanaka's bunt with Brendan Ryan on first went right in front of the plate, and shortstop Wilmer Flores made a good play on a bad throw to second to force out Ryan. Although Gardner singled to move Tanaka to scoring position, Chase Headley lined out to end the inning. In the home half of the second, the Mets punched right back when Duda destroyed a hanging splitter from Tanaka deep into the Queens night to tie it up.
Matz and Tanaka dueled over the next four innings with no change on the scoreboard until the sixth. The Mets starter threw 102 pitches over six, but he stayed tough and limited the Yankees' offense to one run on seven hits with just one walk. He squelched one more opportunity, too, as with runners on first and third with two outs in the sixth, he induced a fielder's choice from Ryan. Some fans quibbled that Girardi should have pinch-hit someone for Ryan, but if anyone competent was put into the game, Mets skipper Terry Collins would almost certainly have just intentionally walked him to face Tanaka, effectively wasting a pinch-hitter and forcing Girardi to make an even more difficult decision about whether or not he should take Tanaka out after only five innings. It was a lose/lose scenario. Tanaka was even more efficient at 82 pitches over six innings, but another rare mistake cost him in the bottom of the sixth. Murphy launched one to right-center field, putting the Mets on top and effectively ending Tanaka's night early with him due up to bat the next inning.
The Yankees' bullpen outside of the main weapons struggled again tonight, as Chasen Shreve was torched again, this time by pinch-hitter Juan Uribe on a two-run opposite-field homer that gave the Mets a decisive three-run lead. A Murphy triple off Branden Pinder (more appropriately, off the top of Jacoby Ellsbury's glove after a long pursuit in center field) and a wild pitch by James Pazos delivered immediately after he entered the game made it 5-1 entering the ninth, and it seemed like the game would end quietly.
Normally reliable closer Jeurys Familia made matters interesting in the ninth though. Pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley led off with a double down the right field line, and with one out, a pinch-hitting Alex Rodriguez worked a walk. Ellsbury scalded a line drive off Familia's knee that ricocheted toward the first base side in foul territory, bringing the tying run to the plate. It was exciting, but it was all for naught. Gardner flew out to left, and Headley fanned to end the game.
With the Blue Jays' win over the Red Sox, they now move to a season-high 4 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees for the AL East. Since Boston is unlikely to put up much of a fight, the pressure will be on tomorrow afternoon for the Yanks to stay in the division title race, as it will be nigh-impossible to make up a 5 1/2 game lead with 15 to go should another full game be lost tomorrow.
It will be up to Michael Pineda to stem the Mets' tide, while the Yankees' offense must figure out how to handle Noah Syndergaard. That will be an afternoon game at 1:05 on FOX. Perhaps consider this a warning.