If you love baseball played by National League rules, then you had to love this situation.

The Yankees were tied with the Mets in the sixth inning of Friday night's Subway Series opener and had runners on first and third and two outs. Light-hitting Brendan Ryan, the No. 8 hitter, was due to bat against Long Island lefthander Steven Matz, who was nearing 100 pitches.

On the bench, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had Alex Rodriguez, a good pinch-hitting option.

But if Girardi went to A-Rod, then Mets manager Terry Collins could have ordered an intentional walk -- even though that would have put the go-ahead run on second -- to get to Masahiro Tanaka.

That would have forced Girardi to either let Tanaka hit or replace him with a pinch hitter. Girardi let Ryan hit. Ryan weakly grounded to short for a forceout to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Tanaka gave up a go-ahead solo home run to Daniel Murphy and then was removed for pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury leading off the seventh.

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The Mets scored three more runs against the Yankees' bullpen and went on to a 5-1 win.

"I thought about using Alex," Girardi said. "But there is an open base. Even though it's second base, there is an open base and you can pitch around him and then you've got to take Tanaka out. And he's throwing the ball really well. So we decided not to."

With the Yankees trailing 5-1 in the ninth, Rodriguez hit for Ryan and walked against Jeurys Familia to put runners on first and second with one out. Ellsbury singled off Familia's left leg to load the bases but Brett Gardner flied out to left and Chase Headley struck out to end the game.

The Yankees, who didn't have Rodriguez, Ellsbury or Brian McCann in the starting lineup, left 10 men on base.

"I know we don't have Alex, I know we don't have McCann, two of our big boppers," Girardi said. "But we had our opportunities."

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Tanaka (12-7) allowed two solo homers to take the loss. Lucas Duda went deep in the second after the Yankees had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on cleanup hitter Chris Young's sacrifice fly.

Tanaka has given up 24 home runs in 149 innings. Last year, he gave up 15 in 1361/3 innings.

Other than the homers, Tanaka was fine. Pitching on four days' rest, he held the Mets to five hits and didn't walk a batter. He threw 82 pitches and struck out four.

His next start also will come on four days' rest Wednesday in the final game of the Yankees' series in Toronto. The Yankees trail the Blue Jays by 4½ games.

If the Yankees do not make up enough ground after the series in Toronto, Tanaka will probably see his load lightened for the rest of the regular season so he can prepare to pitch the win-or-go-home wild-card playoff game Oct. 6.