Mo’s 1st blown save comes in Citi Field finale

Was that any way to treat a legend?

The Mets were nice and friendly before the game by giving Mariano Rivera gifts for his farewell appearance at Citi Field and even having him throw out the ceremonial first pitch. There were even cheers from the crowd when Mo entered the game in the bottom of the ninth to try and nail down his 19th consecutive save and give Hiroki Kuroda a deserved winning decision.

Mets players had other ideas, however, and struck hard and quickly against the game’s greatest closer. The man who threw out the first pitch ended up with his first loss of the season with the last one, off of which Lucas Duda lined a single to right field that gave the Mets their second 2-1 victory in a row over the Yankees.

There was a suddenness to all this that is not often seen against Rivera. I do not remember the last time I saw him not get a single out in an appearance. Daniel Murphy, who was frustrated throughout these two games because of Brett Gardner’s defense, got the ball rolling in the ninth with a double down the left-field line.

David Wright followed by fighting off an inside cutter and getting the ball into center field for a single that scored Murphy with the tying run that stuck Mo with his first blown save of year. Rivera also made an uncustomary mistake by not backing up the plate on Gardner’s throw home. The ball got by catcher Chris Stewart, which allowed Wright to advance into scoring position at second base. Duda’s hit came three pitches later off another inside cutter.

After being ejected for arguing an umpire’s call in the sixth inning, Mets manager Terry Collins watched the rest of the game from a video room near the clubhouse. With tapes of Rivera on the screen, Collins told Mets players who came into the room that they should be aware that Mo will be around the plate and they needed to stay inside with their swings, not to think long ball. Very sound advice, it turned out.

Rivera told reporters that his location was fine and gave the Mets credit for getting good swings against him. In a matter of minutes, the Mets stunned the game’s greatest closer and kept their phenom, Matt Harvey, from suffering his first loss of the season

Anticipated pitching duels do not always materialize. Tuesday night’s Round 2 of the Subway Series lived up to its billing, however.

Although attention from ESPN to the national television audience centered on Harvey, Kuroda stole the spotlight. Do not misunderstand me. Harvey was brilliant and showed that he has been worth all the accolades he has received. This kid is clearly the goods.

But as Yankees fans can attest, so is Kuroda. With CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes having uneven seasons and Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova having done time on the disabled list, Kuroda has been the most dependable starter in the Yanks’ rotation. He is no stranger to the Mets, whom he faced often in his National League years with the Dodgers, but he has been a much different pitcher in his games against them for the Yankees.

Kuroda was 1-5 with a 5.75 ERA against the Mets in seven starts with the Dodgers. Since taking part in the Subway Series the past two years, Kuroda has yet to give up a run to the Mets over 14 innings. The righthander scattered four singles, did not walk a batter and struck out seven in his seven innings of work. Nearly a year ago, Kuroda pitched seven shutout innings and allowed one hit in beating the Mets, 9-1, June 8, 2012 at Yankee Stadium.

Harvey made only one real mistake in his eight innings – a changeup that stayed up for Lyle Overbay, who singled home the Yankees’ only run. It was earned but somewhat tainted since Gardner got to second base after his leadoff single on an error by right fielder Marlon Byrd. Harvey allowed six hits, all singles, with no walks and 10 strikeouts.

For the second straight night, Gardner lent his glove hand in support of his pitcher. Once again, Murphy was the victim. Gardner robbed the Mets’ second baseman of a two-run home run in Monday night’s 2-1 Mets victory. The larceny this time was not as costly, but it did likely cost the Mets one run.

In the sixth inning with Ruben Tejada on first base after reaching on an error by Robinson Cano, Murphy launched a drive to left-center where Gardner raced over and made a lunging, one-handed grab to ruin a bid for an extra-base hit. Tejada almost certainly would have scored had the ball not been caught. Tejada moved to second on a passed ball by Stewart, but Kuroda teamed with shortstop Reid Brignac for an inning-ending pickoff, which was hotly contested by Collins, who got the boot.

Murphy would get revenge on Gardner in the bottom of the ninth by beating his throw home to give the Mets life and head the Yankees toward their first three-game losing streak of the season. The Subway Series moves to the Bronx Wednesday night. It has been a bumpy ride so far.

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