All the questions leading up to the first game of this year's Subway Series revolved, appropriately, around one pitcher: Johan Santana, making his first start since throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history a week earlier.
Hiroki Kuroda was the forgotten man in the pregame discourse Friday, but that was far from the case afterward. He pitched the Yankees, who bludgeoned Santana, to a 9-1 win over the Mets before a sellout crowd of 48,566 at the Stadium.
"I've seen Mr. Kuroda for a while,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I saw him in Japan, I've seen him here. This is the best I've ever seen him pitch. Best command of his stuff I've ever seen.''
Kuroda had the crowd buzzing about the surreal possibility of New York being the site of no-hitters on consecutive Fridays, holding the Mets hitless for 52/3 innings before No. 9 hitter Omar Quintanilla doubled to left-center.
It was the only hit Kuroda (5-6, 3.46 ERA) allowed in seven innings, though his night ended on a potentially sour note. He struck out a season-high seven and walked one, leaving with a left foot contusion after taking a liner off the foot to end the seventh (the ball caromed to Alex Rodriguez at third for the out).
X-rays of Kuroda's foot were negative and the pitcher later said it felt "a lot better than when I first got hit.'' Through his interpreter, he gave an emphatic "yes'' to the question of whether he expects to make his next start.
Kuroda later was spotted leaving on crutches -- in itself not unusual for a player suffering any kind of foot injury, serious or not -- and Joe Girardi was more cautious about that next start.
"I think any time you get hit in the foot like that, I think you have to be somewhat concerned,'' Girardi said.
Santana (3-3, 2.96) entered the game with two consecutive shutouts, but the Yankees crushed four homers off him, including three in a row by Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones with two outs in the third inning as the Yankees took a 6-0 lead. It was Cano's second two-run homer on the first pitch of his at-bat in two innings.
Cano, Swisher and Jones accomplished the same feat -- going back-to-back-to-back -- last Aug. 28 in the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore.
"Tonight was just kind of one of those magical nights,'' Swisher said. "Robbie, myself and Druw, it doesn't happen very often. It's just something that's cool to be part of.''
The Yankees drove Santana -- who threw a career-high 134 pitches in his no-hitter against the Cardinals and left Collins worried about how his surgically repaired left shoulder would handle the workload -- from the game after five innings and 86 pitches.
It was the first time Santana, who allowed six runs and seven hits, has ever given up four homers in a game. He walked one and struck out five.
Cano's two-run homer in the second, on the first pitch after Rodriguez walked, snapped Santana's scoreless-innings streak at 19.
"It's just one of those days,'' Santana said. "The good thing is I felt good. That's what I can say right now. I know there were a lot of expectations and a lot of people waiting for tonight, but it just happened. It's done. I just got to get ready for my next one.''
The Yankees scored three in the seventh against righthander Elvin Ramirez. Curtis Granderson walked, Mark Teixeira doubled and A-Rod lifted a sacrifice fly to center. Swisher's two-out RBI double into the rightfield corner made it 8-0 and Jones added an RBI single.
The way Kuroda was going early had Girardi believing his pitcher might duplicate what Santana did the Friday before.
"With what Santana did last week, you thought maybe this is going to happen here. We've seen a lot of special things happen at Yankee Stadium,'' Girardi said. "I thought maybe it will happen, who knows? It's unfortunate it didn't, but he still pitched a great game.''
With David Lennon