Hiroki Kuroda didn't take the mound last night cloaked in anonymity, but it was close because Matt Harvey had dominated the talk days before the game.
Afterward it was clear, at least for one night, that Kuroda had the title of best pitcher in New York.
Kuroda, who has spent much of his career in the U.S. underrated as the consistent, front-end- of-the-rotation pitcher he's been, had the Mets in a daze over seven shutout innings.
The righthander allowed four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts. Kuroda limited the Mets to just two runners in scoring position and lowered his ERA to 2.39 from 2.67.
"Anybody can look at him and know how good a pitcher he is," Kuroda said of Harvey. "I was expecting it was going to be a tough game."
Not only has Kuroda been, by far, the Yankees' best starter this season, the argument can be made that he also was their best last season when he went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA.
Kuroda, who shares the Andy Pettitte trait of hardly ever praising himself regardless of how well he throws, didn't see it as a standout performance.
"I don't know if I had any particular pitches that worked well today," Kuroda said. "There were a lot of team plays that contributed to the outing."
Gardner certainly made one of those -- he made the catch of the game for the second straight night -- again victimizing Daniel Murphy.
Gardner reached over the wall Monday night and stole what would have been the go-ahead two-run homer from Murphy. Tuesday night, with the Mets trailing 1-0 and a runner on first and none out, Murphy drove one again to deep left- center. Gardner sprinted back and, just before the wall, about 20 feet to the left of the 385 sign where he starred the night before, he extended his right arm, the ball barely catching the webbing of his glove, and made the catch.
"I don't think he's too happy with me,'' Gardner said, with a smile, of Murphy. "But that's all right."
Kuroda, who rarely shows much emotion on the mound -- or off it for that matter -- slapped his glove and pointed enthusiastically in Gardner's direction.
"I was worried a little bit," Kuroda said. "But he's a good fielder so I thought he might get it."
Gardner, who tripled and scored in Monday night's game, put the Yankees on the board Tuesday night. He had two of the Yankees' six hits against Harvey, who struck out 10.
Gardner's leadoff single in the sixth, and subsequent error by rightfielder Marlon Byrd, gave the Yankees their second runner in scoring position of the game against Harvey. Gardner scored later in the inning on Lyle Overbay's two-out single to center, a liner off a 1-and-0 changeup that came in at 87 mph.
Kuroda provided a shutdown bottom half of the sixth that included the ejection of Mets manager Terry Collins when the pitcher picked off Ruben Tejada, a strange play in which second-base umpire Adrian Johnson first called the shortstop safe before reversing the call.
That, however, wasn't discussed much in the Yankees' clubhouse. The two primary topics were, in order, Mariano Rivera's blown save and Kuroda's performance.
"He's human," Kuroda said of Rivera. "There are days like this. I'm sure he's going to continue to help us throughout the season."