NEW YORK -- It had been a while since Sonny Gray walked off the field to cheers in the Bronx, but on Saturday afternoon the 47,102 fans in attendance handed the Yankees' starter a loud ovation as he made his way from the rubber to the dugout after striking out
NEW YORK -- It had been a while since Sonny Gray walked off the field to cheers in the Bronx, but on Saturday afternoon the 47,102 fans in attendance handed the Yankees' starter a loud ovation as he made his way from the rubber to the dugout after striking out Asdrubal Cabrera with two runners on to end the fifth inning.
The right-hander came out to face three more batters in the sixth before ending his afternoon after 5 1/3 solid frames, permitting three runs (two earned) on three hits in the Yankees' 7-6 victory over the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
"I didn't think [Gray] was necessarily great today, but that's the encouraging outing you want to see," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "When Sonny's not as his best, necessarily, he should be able to go out and pitch like he did today into the sixth inning. He's probably a pitch or two away from getting through six innings kind of unscathed. … By and large I thought it was a solid outing for him. What I liked was it wasn't a perfect outing and he was still really competitive."
In his first eight Yankee Stadium starts this season, the righty had accumulated an 8.25 ERA entering Saturday. Gray has now won consecutive starts for the first time since donning the pinstripes at the beginning of last August and said he feels like he is in a much better place. He also picked up his first home victory since May 5, although the Yankees just barely hung on to their lead in the ninth inning.
"For me, there's only one way to go, and that's up," Gray said. "I don't know, I guess it just couldn't get any worse and something needed to change. I think it's, for me, mindset-wise, to go out there and compete and go out there and keep the game small. Go out there and just try to get guys out one pitch at a time, one batter at a time and take that mindset throughout the second half and hopefully start a lot of games that we win."
Albertin Chapman -- who has been battling left knee tendinitis -- entered the ninth inning with a four-run lead, but struggled to find the strike zone, allowing the Mets to put on a late charge. The closer walked in a run on four pitches before allowing another to score on a hit batsman, prompting Boone to turn to Chasen Shreve with the bases loaded and a two-run lead. A run scored on a ground-ball double play and Shreve recorded the final out and the save by throwing out Wilmer Flores on a grounder back to the mound.
"It doesn't concern me at all," Chapman said. "It's a bad outing. I feel good, so nothing to worry about."
The Bombers put up a four-spot in the fourth inning, starting with a Didi Gregorius RBI triple past diving center fielder Matthew den Dekker. Miguel Andujar followed with a fly ball that was ruled an RBI double after a fan reached out and caught it over the wall. den Dekker then misplayed drives from Greg Bird and Austin Romine, resulting in an RBI double and single, respectively, off Steven Matz, who allowed five runs on nine hits through five innings.
After Bird gave the Yankees a little cushion with an RBI single in the sixth, Aaron Judge -- who went 3-for-4 on the afternoon -- launched his 26th home run of the year into the Mets' bullpen.
"Good player," Boone said of Judge. "He's one of those guys, to me, even when he's struggling, I feel like the at-bat quality is pretty good anyway just because he's so good at controlling the strike zone. … He's been swinging it well, including [in] the All Star Game."
Earlier in the afternoon, Michael Conforto got the Mets on the board by leading off the second inning with a solo shot to right-center field off Gray. The starter was charged with an earned run on an Amed Rosario single off Player Page for David Robertson in the sixth before Robertson commited a throwing error on a pickoff attempt to allow another Mets run to score.
Andujar has 45 extra-base hits in his first 91 career games, which is the fourth-most by a Yankee within that span of games. He trails just Joe DiMaggio (63 extra-base hits), Bob Meusel (52) and Gary Sanchez (46).
HE SAID IT
"Just a step forward. Simplifying pitch selection, getting him in a comfortable zone and trying to stay there as much as possible. His ball was moving a lot today. I thought he controlled it as much as he could. With that kind of movement, sometimes it can get away, in the past couple [outings] maybe the control got away. I think the last two starts, he's really honing in on controlling all his pitches." -- Yankees catcher Romine, on Gray's recent outings
The Yankees will close out the three-game series against the Mets by sending Masahiro Tanaka to the mound for a Sunday Night Baseball matchup at 8:05 ET. The last time Tanaka (7-2, 4.54 ERA) faced the Mets, he ended up on the disabled list, as he strained both hamstrings while running the bases on June 8 at Citi Field. Prior to the injury, Tanaka had permitted a solo homer over five innings, striking out eight. All-Star Jacob deGrom (5-4, 1.68 ERA) will get the ball for the Mets at Yankee Stadium.
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.