NEW YORK -- Amid a season spent on the outskirts of the postseason race, the Yankees entered the Subway Series a team championing its suddenly bright future. A series of trades that spelled the exits of much of their core, general manager Brian Cashman said, were designed to position the Yankees to compete for years to come.
Monday night, though, the Yankees hardly looked like a team focused on anything less than its present. Brett Gardner started the game with a mad dash around the bases, and though he was thrown out at home, it set the tone for a performance of timely hitting, spirited play and a dramatic ending. New closer Dellin Betances encountered some trouble in the 10th, but he struck out Curtis Granderson to seal the Yankees' 6-5 win at Citi Field.
• Yankees acquire Tate for Beltran, deal Nova
"Everybody [was] a little bit down here," second baseman Starlin Castro said. "That's a good win to start off without the guys that are not here no more. Just keep focused on what we do and try to win games."
In addition to trading Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in the past week, the Yankees traded Carlos Beltrán to the Rangers and Ivan Nova to the Pirates prior to Monday's contest. Cashman took pride in the moves, celebrating the Bronx Bombers' improved farm system.
The Yankees, though, were merely focused on snapping a four-game losing streak.
That was evident from the start. Gardner sent the second pitch of the game off the wall in right-center field and went from home to home in 14.89 seconds, the fastest time recorded by Statcast™ this season.
The sprint didn't result in a run, but Gardner produced later in the game, giving the Yankees a 2-1 lead with a double in the fifth.
After Jacoby Ellsbury made it 3-1 with a single one pitch later, though, the Mets trimmed their deficit back to one in the bottom of the fifth when Rob Refsnyder took a gamble. Refsnyder left his feet on a ball hit down the right-field line by Michael Conforto, an effort that would've landed him on a highlight reel if he made the catch. Instead, it skirted past him and allowed Brandon Nimmo to score.
It was a risky move, one made in hopes of preserving the Yankees' lead.
"The guys that we have here never give up," said CC Sabathia, who allowed five earned runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Even after the Mets took a 5-3 lead on a home run from Matt Reynolds, the Yankees kept fighting. Didi Gregorius perhaps best personified the Yankees' performance when he fought back from a 0-2 count to rip an opposite-field, game-tying single in the eighth. Two innings later. Castro put the Yankees ahead for good with a sac fly.
The ending didn't come smoothly. Betances allowed runners to reach first and third having recorded just one out in the 10th.
The 28-year-old didn't wilt. He induced a groundout from René Rivera, before striking out Granderson on three pitches.
With the victory, the Yankees moved within 5 1/2 games of the second Wild Card spot, a race Cashman deemed subservient to his club's need to get younger. But in front of a Queens crowd split between fans of the crosstown rivals, the Yanks absorbed all of the Mets' blows and repeatedly battled back.
"It's going to be tough without our guys," Sabathia said. "But we have guys in here to battle and try to get back in this thing."
• With all of the trades, the Yankees activated a trio of players before Monday's game. Right-hander Tyler Clippard, who was acquired from Arizona, pitched a scoreless seventh against the Mets. In addition, they recalled Ben Gamel and Nick Goody from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre.