Mickey Callaway shook up his lineup for Game 2 of the Subway Series on Saturday night. It worked like a charm initially as the Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the first after having scored three runs in their previous 51 innings.
Then the Mets’ bats went back to sleep for the rest of the game.
Steven Matz was unable to keep the powerful Yankees down for long. A solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the third and a two-run shot by Miguel Andujar in the sixth tied the score heading into the late innings.
Tied with the Yankees heading into the late innings probably is not where the Mets wanted to be.
Aaron Judge opened the eighth with his 18th homer, a high drive over the leftfield wall on the first pitch thrown by Anthony Swarzak, to give the Yankees their first lead of the night. It was the only one they would need in a 4-3 victory before a sellout crowd of 43,603 at Citi Field.
“With a guy like Swarzak, who’s got wipeout stuff, you have to try and get him early,” Judge said. “I never want to get behind on a guy like that, especially with his good slider and his fastball that plays up. So for me, if I got something out over the plate early, then I’d take a good swing on it.”
The Yankees, who have won nine of 10, are 33-9 since their 9-9 start. They are 6-0 against the Mets in the last two seasons.
The Mets, who have lost eight in a row for the first time since 2004 (when their losing streak reached 11 games), are 16-33 since their 11-1 start. They have lost 13 of their last 15 and have a 10-game losing streak at home.
“We’re playing good baseball. We’re just not getting the win,” Swarzak said. “And that’s frustrating. I know it’s hard to say that when you’ve lost so many in a row, but I feel like these last two nights, I feel like we really are playing good baseball.”
The Mets rode their rebuilt lineup to three runs in the first against Domingo German. With one out, Todd Frazier hit his sixth home run and Brandon Nimmo tripled into the rightfield corner. He got to trot home — though he probably sprinted — when Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run homer into the Yankees’ bullpen. It was his 11th home run.
After giving up three runs to the first four batters, German pitched shutout ball for the next 5 2⁄3 innings, striking out nine.
“That was a great way to start,” Nimmo said. “But again, we need to finish better.”
Frazier put it more bluntly, saying the Mets needed to keep scoring. “For lack of a better word,” he said, “you’ve got to stomp on their throats.”
Torres hit his 11th home run in the third. It was his eighth homer in his last 19 games.
Matz wiggled out of trouble in the fifth. A four-pitch walk to German helped the Yankees load the bases with two outs, but Judge grounded out.
That changed quickly in the sixth. Matz walked Gary Sanchez and hung a curveball to Andujar, who hit his eighth home run to tie the score at 3.
Callaway, who had Robert Gsellman warming in the sixth, called on his best reliever in the seventh but chose not to double-switch Gsellman into the game and had to pinch hit for him in the bottom of the seventh. Callaway explained that he wanted Gsellman to pitch only one inning regardless of the situation even though the former starter has proved to be an effective multi-inning reliever.
With Gsellman out of the game, Swarzak started the eighth with a hanging slider. Judge issued his verdict on the pitch and the Yankees had the lead.
“I was trying, honestly, to spike that ball,” Swarzak said. “I knew he was probably going to swing. The whole team likes to swing. I throw a high percentage of sliders, so when they see that slider, they’re going to try to swing at it. I just didn’t put it where I needed to put it to be effective.”
Aroldis Chapman, who is pitching with a sore left knee, picked up his second save in two nights and 17th overall. With two men on and two outs in the ninth, Jose Reyes — the Mets’ last position player available — pinch hit and lined out to Judge to drop his batting average to .139.
The one-run loss led Callaway to search really hard for a silver lining. “It’s not like we’re getting boat-raced every night,” he said. “We’re in every single game.”