hospital ward team came into Yankee Stadium Friday night missing starting third baseman David Wright, center fielder Angel Pagan, first baseman Ike Davis and staff ace Johan Santana. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the anticipated heart of the lineup (Beltran, Wright and Jason Bay) have been active at the same time for a total of 27 games. Their starting infield tonight: Daniel Murphy (1B), Ruben Tejada (2B), Jose Reyes (SS) and Justin Turner (3B). Not quite the ’77 Dodgers. Despite this, and a 5-13 start to the season, new manager Terry Collins had them at 21-22, five games behind the first place Phillies.
R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballing starter, had been cuffed around for most of the early season (1-5, 5.08 ERA). The Yanks countered with Freddy Garcia, who was probably salivating over the depleted opposition, given the way the Red Sox treated him in his last start (5 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 2 HR, 5 ER).
Unfortunately for Garcia, Dickey had an ally on this night, namely the Yankees continued inability to get a clutch hit. Going into the evening, the Bombers were 9th in the AL in batting average with 2 out and runners in scoring position (.219). The worst offender, Nick Swisher, finally got his first hit in 20 tries Thursday night in Baltimore. He couldn’t offer a repeat performance.
Alex Rodriguez doubled to right-center to start the bottom of the 2nd. Robbie Cano struck out and Russell Martin grounded out. Jorge Posada worked a walk and Swisher was plunked on the knee by a 68-mph flutterball to load the bases. Alas, Brett Gardner hit a two hopper to Turner for a force at third to end the threat.
Mark Teixeira cracked his 11th homer of 2011 with two out in the third for the game’s first run . . . a wall-scraper that landed in the first row of the right field seats just over Beltran’s outstretched glove. The Mets got the run back in the fourth on a two-out double by DH Fernando Martinez and a double down the right field line by Turner (one of his three hits on the night).
The Yanks had chances to retake the lead over the next two innings. Swisher came up with two outs and Martin on second in the fourth and struck out. Gardner and Derek Jeter reached safely to start the fifth, but Curtis Granderson flew to right, Teixeira was caught looking and Rodriguez grounded to short.
The Mets reclaimed the lead in their half of the sixth on a leadoff homer by Daniel Murphy inside the right field foul pole. Garcia subsequently walked Beltran and two outs later Turner dunked a ground rule double in front of a diving Swisher (fortunate for the Yanks as Beltran would have scored had the ball stayed in play). Garcia wiggled out of trouble by getting Josh Thole to bounce out to Teixeira. Dickey survived another runner in scoring position jam in the bottom of the inning, as Russell Martin’s one-out double went for naught with strikeouts of Posada and Swisher. And that was the last threat (and baserunner) the Yanks would muster, as three Met relievers combined to strike out five of the last nine Yankee batters.
In all, the Yanks went 1-10 with runners in scoring position, and wasted a good bounceback effort by Garcia (with solid relief from David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain, each of whom allowed one single and struck out two in their respective inning of work).