After Mets pitcher Frank Francisco called the Yankees "chickens" on Friday, I was expecting a combative atmosphere at Citi Field on Saturday night, and though it seemed like a competitive temperament had been mounting between the teams over the past few days, their rapport was quite cordial, both on and off the field. It was a perfect evening for baseball -- cool and cloudless -- and the mood in the stands was absolutely electric.
There was a wonderful combination of Mets and Yankees fans in the stadium, but the most vocal fan of the evening was 13-year-old Paul Levy, whose good-natured razzing of Derek Jeter attracted my attention. I asked him about his problem with Jeter. "He bothers me," said Levy. "He's too good." The entire Levy family was dressed in Mets jerseys and extremely knowledgeable about the game, so I spent some time discussing strategy and baseball history with them. This was only the first inning and things were already beginning to heat up in the stands. Besides, the Levy's were sitting in an area reserved primarily for Yankees families so I thought it best to move on.
When I got to section 318, I spoke with Billy K., a security-attendant, who said, "On Friday night, when either team got a hit, the whole place erupted!" Clearly, with two home teams playing, there's never much opportunity for quiet. Things started out the same on Saturday night, except by the 5th inning, the Mets were winning 2-0, and their fans were constantly buzzing. The Mets added another run in the 6th inning, but the Yankees Raul Ibanez turned the tables in the 7th inning with a three-run homer to right field tying the score, and there was complete pandemonium at Citi Field.
The Mets replaced starter Chris Young with Jon Rauch (he has more tattoos than Josh Hamilton), who immediately gave up a home run to Eric Chavez. 4-3 Yankees.
With the Mets at bat, Jordany Valdespin doubled to center off Cody Eppley. That hit proved to be enough--Eppley was quickly relieved by Boone Logan who struck out Murphy and Duda to end the 7th. The Yankees began the bottom of the 8th with yet another pitching change, bringing in lefty David Robertson who proceeded to walk Thole and Quintanella. With two on and one out, Robertson responded to the pressure by striking out the side; suddenly the stadium became quiet.
The Mets brought in Jeremy Hefner for the top of the 9th inning. Hefner quickly dispatched Swisher, Ibanez and pinch hitter Dewayne Wise.
Finally, it was the bottom of the 9th and the Yankees brought in Rafael Soriano to face Valdespin, Wright and Duda. Valdespin struck out, Wright quickly singled and Lucas Duda struck out. Daniel Murphy was the Mets last hope, but he flew out to deep right field and the Yankees won a 4-3. It was a real nail biter and one of the best games I've seen in a long time. Fans from both teams were filing out high-fiving each other as one of them kept repeating: "Great night. Great night. Great night."
Before the game, Eddie O, another security-attendant at Citi Field, gave me his opinion on the Subway Series: "If this place isn't packed tonight, there's something wrong with baseball." The announced attendance on Saturday night was 42,122 people -- a sellout crowd and the largest in the history of Citi Field. There's nothing wrong with baseball, Eddie.
(Photo by Scott Blakeman)