(Aaron Judge connecting on his double in the first inning – Photo by Jason Schott)
The Yankees beat the Mets, 5-1, on Wednesday night at Citi Field to split their two-game set and the four-game Subway Series for the season when you throw in their doubleheader split at Yankee Stadium on June 11.
The Yankees improve to 55-29 and they are off to Tampa Bay for four games with the Rays, who they lead by 6 1/2 games in the American League East, to close out the first half of the season.
The Mets fell to 39-48, and after an off day on Thursday (yes, they’re off on the Fourth of July), they also face a division rival, as the Philadelphia Phillies come to Citi Field for a three-game set before the All-Star Break.
Yankees starter Domingo German earned his 10th win of the season, as he turned in a stellar outing in his first start since June 7. He threw six innings, allowing one run on five hits and no walks, with six strikeouts, and did it with just 80 pitches, including 56 strikes.
When Yankees Manager Aaron Boone was asked what stood out for him about German’s performance, he said, “Stuff, tempo, command, everything. That was kind of that good, dominant version of Domingo we saw so much the first couple of months of the season. It was exciting to see him pitch so well. I mean, going in, you know, 75, 80 (pitches) was kind of where we’re going to push him if everything was going well. You’re kind of thinking, alright, four, maybe five innings. For him to be that efficient, get us through six innings like he did, great having him back and really excited for him that he came out and pitched so well.”
The Yankees came out firing against Mets starter Jason Vargas as DJ LeMahieu doubled and scored on another double from Aaron Judge.
Gleyber Torres followed with a two-out single to score Judge and make it 2-0.
The Mets wasted no time getting one back, as Jeff McNeil homered on the first pitch from German.
The Yankees tried to keep it going in the second as Gio Urshela led off the top of the second with a single, but he was erased on a 3-6-3-4 double play. Brett Gardner lined one to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who stepped on the bag and then caught Urshela in the rundown.
In the fourth, Didi Gregorius smoked one at Alonso, who made a great play, but the Yankee shortstop outran Vargas to the bag.
After Gio Urshela grounded out and Brett Gardner walked, German came up and he laid down a bunt. The Mets were ready for it and turned another unique double play as catcher Wilson Ramos fired to third to nab Gregorius, then Todd Frazier threw to first to get German by a step.
The Yankee fifth opened with a pop-up down the right field line, and Alonso had a beat on it. Just as he was about to close his glove to make the catch, second baseman Robinson Cano inadvertently ran into him as he was giving chase, and Alonso dropped it.
Vargas then struck out Judge and Gary Sanchez before Aaron Hicks grounded into a force to close out the frame.
The Mets starter came back for the sixth even though his pitch count was getting up there, and he struck out Torres to open the inning.
Gregorius was up next, and he took an offspeed pitch that was up and in and buried it into right field for a solo home run to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of the pitch Vargas threw to Didi, “He felt like he could have executed it better. He felt like he wasn’t quite ready to make the pitch and he felt like he should have stepped off.”
That was all for Vargas, who went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits, with two walks and he struck out six.
Callaway said of the lefty’s performance, “I thought he threw the ball really well; obviously, a great lineup over there. He kept them off balance, kept the ball underneath the zone when he needed to and he gave us a chance. It was another great outing by him.”
Wilmer Font was first out of the Mets’ bullpen, and his first batter was Urshela, who creamed it into the corner in left field for a solo homer of his own, and just like that, the Yankees were up 4-1.
On why he went to Font at that time, Callaway said, “I thought Font had been throwing the ball well lately (he pitched two scoreless innings Sunday against Atlanta). You know, at that point, it probably was (Robert) Gsellman or Font. I think that, that early in the game, Font’s ability to go 50 pitches, if we need be, and he’s on a roll, and we can do that. I thought at that point, he’s been throwing the ball well, he’s been getting lefties out, we had Urshela coming up, we had (Brett) Gardner coming up, and then I didn’t know what they might do with the nine hole. I thought maybe (Edwin) Encarnacion was an option, so we felt like Font would be a good choice there.”
The Mets did not respond in the bottom of the sixth as German worked around a Michael Conforto single and notched strikeouts of Alonso and Frazier, to close out his night.
Boone said of how much an impact German’s aggressiveness early in the count had on his efficiency, “I think it was big, and I thought he did a really good job of, you know, first pitch, obviously, McNeil takes him deep and you kind of watch him react to it and there’s no reaction; it’s just like, ‘ok, start making pitches.’ He’s done a really good job of that, I feel like he’s not getting emotionally distracted by good things that happen on the mound, or even in times when he’s struggled a little bit. He’s really been under control, and I feel like tonight, he certainly was.”
Font was still on for the seventh, when he gave up a leadoff double to LeMahieu, and then with two outs, Torres got an RBI single to make it 5-1.
That was all for Font, and the Mets turned to starter Steven Matz to make his first-ever relief appearance. He got Gregorius to ground to second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, with Chad Green in for the Yankees,with one on and two out, Matz’s spot in the order came up with one on and two out.
Instead of letting Matz, who’s a fairly good hitter, hit for himself so he can stay in the game, they made what was at best a lateral move by sending up Luis Guillorme, who struck out to end the inning.
Ironically, the Yankees sent Green, who had four career at-bats) up to hit for himself in the eighth to keep him in the game for the bottom half of the inning, which he got through with ease as he worked around an Alonso single.
With a four-run lead, the Yankees turned to Nestor Cortes, Jr. instead of Aroldis Chapman to close out the Mets in the ninth.