By Barry Millman
Playing the best teams in baseball sure brings out the best in the Bronx Bombers lately.
One day after topping off a successful road trip by taking three of four games from a Detroit Tigers team brandishing the best record in baseball, the Yankees opened a three-game home series Friday against the NY Mets, who came rolling across the East River on an 11-game winning streak accompanied by a small but vocal fan contigent and a won-loss record indicating they were the new best team in the game.
Then the game started.
At the end of the first inning, Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who brings more swag and tude to the mound with every start, already had two strikeouts and the Yankees were up 2-0 on Mark Teixeira's sixth home run of the season with Brett Gardner aboard.
Chants of "Let's Go Mets" that had been echoing down from the pumpkin patch of orange shirts occupying several sections of the upper deck in left field evaporated into the chilly night air.
At the end of three, Pineda had four strikeouts and the Yankees were up 6-0 on Jacoby Ellsbury's first home run of the season; Tex's seventh home run with ARod aboard; and a sacrifice fly by Stephen Drew that scored Brian McCann.
By the end of the sixth when the Mets finally scored their only run on a sac fly, the patch was bare and the pumpkins were rolling toward the exits.
Pineda left to a standing ovation after 7.2 innings and his 100th pitch -- 78 of them strikes, 21 of them knee-buckling changeups he used to devastating effect in concert with his exquisitely located fastball -- having struck out seven Mets, walking none and scattering five hits.
Reliever Chasen Shreve, who took the ball from Pineda, left without allowing a baserunner for the remaining 1.1 innings.
Mets starter Jacob DeGrom, last year's NL Rookie of the Year who came into the game with a scoreless streak of 18.1 innings and an ERA of 0.93, left after just five innings with all six runs on his distinguished young resume along with a far more human ERA of 2.96.
The best team in baseball left the field with their winning streak in shreds but still clinging to the title with a 13-4 record.
And the Yankees -- who started the season 3-6 and were not expected to be the best at anything by anybody but a few homers like yours truly -- left the field sitting at 10-7 and tied for first place with the second most productive offense in MLB and a pitching staff that hasn't allowed more than four runs in eight straight games.
Don't look now, but the best team in baseball might actually be the one beating the best teams in baseball.
You can email Barry Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanforever.