Bay's homers help Johan quiet Yanks

Bay's homers help Johan quiet Yanks

NEW YORK -- In years past, Jason Bay has hit 32, 35 and 36 home runs, establishing himself as one of baseball's premier power hitters. That is the track record that landed him a four-year, $66 million contract this past offseason with the Mets.

Entering Sunday's play, Bay was stuck at one. So when he blasted two more home runs in a 6-4 victory over the Yankees on Sunday night, tripling his season output in his 45th game, Bay's power became the dominant topic of conversation.

"I didn't know my third home run was going to be such a big talking point when I first signed here," Bay said. "And understandably so."

The Mets are happy for the commotion. Off Yankees ace CC Sabathia, Bay gave Johan Santana a commanding early lead with a two-run shot to left in the second. Then two innings later, he did it again, shooting a solo blast into the bullpen in right-center field.

Advertised as the streakiest of hitters, Bay has now reached base in nine consecutive plate appearances dating back to Friday, after enduring an 0-for-14 stretch earlier in May.

"I've seen that before," said second baseman Alex Cora, who added a two-run single off Sabathia in the second. "That first ball he hit, he really hit it. And obviously the second one, it makes you feel pretty confident. He's one of the best hitters in the league."

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Before this weekend's Subway Series, Cora joked that perhaps Bay needed to face the Yankees, against whom he is a .357 career hitter. Or maybe the sage old infielder was not joking.

"I'm not good enough to ramp it up team by team," Bay said, shrugging. "It's just one of those things. There are certain teams you don't do well against for whatever reason. The times that I've faced them I've had success, but that doesn't make it any easier."

No, it only looked easier. After a frustrating stretch of home games in which Bay crushed balls to left field with nothing to show for it, the power has finally and suddenly arrived.

And on this night, there was pitching, too.

Prior to Saturday's game, manager Jerry Manuel spoke to the importance of Mike Pelfrey's and Santana's starts. With the rest of the rotation in flux, Manuel said, the Mets need to win as many of those games as possible -- and Pelfrey did his part later that day against the Yankees.

To that end, Santana gave the Mets another strong dose of pitching on Sunday: 7 2/3 innings, six hits, one run, three walks and five strikeouts.

Santana's only trouble came in the seventh, when Francisco Cervelli banged a ball off the top of the left-field wall adjacent to the foul pole. Originally ruling it an RBI single, umpires confirmed the call via replay. Then Santana retired the next batter to squash any momentum.

In fact, Santana retired most everyone, setting down 14 straight Yankees during one stretch in the middle innings.

"He was outstanding, like he always is," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "He had us off balance."

"Everyone knows about Santana and how great he is," said Cervelli, a countryman who counted Santana among his childhood idols.

The third Venezuelan to play in this game, Francisco Rodriguez, provided the final wrinkle in Sunday's plot. After recording five outs in Saturday's victory, Rodriguez entered the game with the tying run in the on-deck circle. And he promptly served up an RBI double to Derek Jeter.

Yet the threat would extend no further. Rodriguez set down Brett Gardner on a slow roller, with David Wright narrowly throwing out Gardner at first base. He allowed a single to Mark Teixeira and then, with the potential tying runs on base, he fanned A-Rod on an 81-mph changeup.

"I know what K-Rod can do," Santana said. "It was good to see the last pitch, striking out A-Rod. That's always good."

Suddenly, with two wins and a series victory -- their second in eight tries -- in their pocket, all's good with the Mets. Pelfrey and Santana are rolling. Bay and Jose Reyes, who finished 2-for-5, are finally hitting. Rodriguez has games to close, and Manuel has fewer questions to deflect about his job security.

Now seven full weeks through the season, the Mets are closer to the Phillies in the National League East standings than the Yankees are to the Rays in the American League East. Figure that.

Three games against those Phillies are next, with the Mets feeling better about themselves than they have in weeks. For all they try to downplay the significance of the Subway Series, this one was critical. Beating the defending World Series champions is no small thing for a team that was -- and no longer is -- seriously lacking in self-esteem.

"You see the atmosphere around here," Santana said. "Everybody's happy. Everybody's excited. Tonight was a pretty good one."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.