Vidal Nuño more than surpassed expectations in his first three career starts.
And the rookie lefthander's reward, for now, very well could be a ticket back to the minors.
Nuño allowed two runs -- on Marlon Byrd's two-run homer in the second inning -- and three hits, all coming in that inning.
But with Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira expected to come off the disabled list Friday and Andy Pettitte set to come off the DL and start Monday, roster moves have to be made. And Nuño is all but certain to be one of those jettisoned from the big-league roster.
The Yankees are carrying 13 pitchers, and Joe Girardi has said that when Youkilis and Teixeira return, it likely will be 12. But the 25-year-old Nuño more than made an impression, guaranteeing more opportunities -- which during the long season always come about -- down the road.
"He just has a great idea of what he's doing out there,'' Pettitte said before the game. "He doesn't try to do too much. He doesn't overthrow. He can change speeds and he's locating the ball very well.''
Girardi has been similarly impressed. "He can throw any pitch at any time,'' he said. "And he does the little things. Doesn't walk people . . . He hasn't been intimidated by this atmosphere.''
The Yankees desperately needed some distance from their starter after David Phelps was knocked out after one-third of an inning Wednesday night. Nuño provided that, retiring 15 of the final 16 batters he faced.
The Mets got to him in the second. Lucas Duda walked and Byrd hit his sixth homer, a two-run shot into the second deck in left that made it 2-0.
Nuño received little support on this night against Dillon Gee, who entered the game 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA and without a win since May 1.
After Robinson Cano's homer with one out in the bottom of the third cut the Yankees' deficit to 2-1, Gee -- who struck out a career-high 12 -- set down 15 straight, striking out the final five hitters he faced. Gee, Scott Rice and Bobby Parnell retired the final 20 Yankees to bat, striking out 11 of them.
In the final three games of the series, Mets pitchers struck out 34 and walked none. Overall, the Mets struck out 40 and walked two. The Yankees had only four extra-base hits in the series and batted .235.
Nuño, meanwhile, took the hard-luck loss, dropping him to 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA.
"He's very confident and he's very aggressive and he's done a great job for us,'' Pettitte said before the game. "He's going to be able to stick around for a long time if he continues to throw strikes and change speeds the way he's doing.''