Aaron Boone all season has praised his club’s ability to "get up off of the mat." The Yankees did just that in a big way Saturday night, even if there were plenty of hiccups along the way.
After completely flushing the five-run second-inning lead provided by two-run homers by Kyle Higashioka and Brett Gardner and a solo shot by Aaron Judge — who later tied the score with a two-run homer — the Yankees earned an 8-7 win over the Mets that ended their losing streak at seven games.
A sigh of relief for Boone? "That’s one way of putting it,’’ he said. "Obviously, we’ve needed to win. It wasn’t easy . . . One of those where we needed everyone, we used almost everyone, and it feels good to hear some noise in that room postgame."
How meaningful was it to have this kind of game on a night when the two teams observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11? "It means the world to me,’’ Judge said. "This was for the city, this was for the Yankee fans, for everybody affected on this day. This was more than just a baseball game tonight. It was an honor to be able to be out there and be on that field, to be able to represent New York. It’s tough to describe. I grew up in California, but my heart and my soul are in New York and in this city."
With Boston winning and Toronto sweeping a doubleheader in Baltimore, the Red Sox (81-63) are one game ahead of the Yankees (79-63) and Blue Jays (79-63) in the battle for the two wild-card spots. Oakland and Seattle are three games behind Boston.
"We definitely needed it,’’ Gardner said. "We needed it a few days ago but it didn’t come until today. It’s nice to get back on track. We’ve been kind of lately [experiencing] the highest of highs and recently the lowest of lows. Just proud of the way we responded."
The Yankees saw the Mets (71-72) score seven unanswered runs in taking a 7-5 lead. Meanwhile, Mets starter Taijuan Walker retired 13 straight batters and Seth Lugo extended the streak to 16.
But the Yankees rallied in the eighth as Gardner led off with a single and Judge launched a towering shot to left for his 32nd homer to tie it at 7.
Giancarlo Stanton singled and one out later, Gleyber Torres reached on an infield single to send pinch runner Andrew Velazquez to second. Pinch hitter Luke Voit sent a grounder to shortstop Francisco Lindor that seemed destined to be a double play, but Javier Baez airmailed his throw to first and nearly threw it in the stands, allowing Velazquez to dive across the plate with the go-ahead run.
This being the Yankees, their battered bullpen didn’t make it easy in the final two innings. Albert Abreu retired the first two hitters in the eighth before walking Lindor and Michael Conforto. Pete Alonso then flied out to Gardner at the edge of the warning track in center.
Aroldis Chapman, rickety during pretty much all of the season’s second half, needed a diving catch by Judge in rightfield on a sinking liner by Baez to start his ninth with an out. "Huge night by Aaron,’’ Boone said. "Great play there in the ninth. That’s not an easy play. Just a special night by a great player."
Asked to describe Judge’s night, Yankees starter Corey Kluber said, "I’m not sure I have the words really to say. Two big home runs, diving play there in the ninth. Made a nice play in the fourth when I was still out there. He can impact the game in so many ways. He’s a very underrated outfielder, he’s a good baserunner. There’s numerous ways he can help a team win a ballgame, and tonight he showed a lot of them."
After J.D. Davis sliced a ground-rule double down the line in right, Chapman struck out Kevin Pillar on a splitter that broke downward like a knuckleball, hit the dirt, went off Higashioka’s glove and rolled toward the backstop. Pillar, however, did not realize that the ball had gotten away and Higashioka was able to throw him out at first, with Davis taking third.
James McCann, who had an RBI triple in the second and hit a two-run homer off Chad Green in the sixth to give the Mets a 6-5 lead, hit a routine fly to right to give Chapman his 26th save.
In a span of five pitches by Kluber in the second, Pillar had an RBI double, McCann hit an RBI triple and Walker added a run-scoring single. Baez’s 30th home run made it 5-4 in the third.
The Mets made it 7-5 against Clay Holmes in the seventh on three straight two-out hits by Baez, Jeff McNeil and Pillar.
"I believe in this team, I believe in this group,’’ Boone said. "It’s been ugly at times, but I don’t think this group will ever lose confidence in what we’re doing when we’re at our best."