NEW YORK — A Yankees lineup missing Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury was little match for rookie Steven Matz and the stingy Mets pitching staff.
"I've seen these guys put up runs before," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of his punchless lineup. "I know we don't have Alex. I know we don't have McCann, too, our big boppers. But we had our opportunities."
Masahiro Tanaka (12-7) was outpitched by Matz, a rookie, and the Yankees wasted a bases loaded opportunity with one out in the ninth against closer Jeurys Familia in losing for the seventh time in 10 games.
This was the latest regular-season matchup between the teams, and the loss dropped the Yankees 4 1-2 games behind Toronto in the division with 16 games remaining.
The NL East-leading Mets held their eight-game lead over Washington with 15 to play.
Tanaka made two mistakes in six sharp innings. But the missed locations were big. Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy homered to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. The Japanese star yielded five hits and was lifted after throwing 82 pitches.
"I think it's the location. Bad location that I'm just giving it up to the batters," Tanaka said through a translator when asked why he thinks he's allowed 24 homers this season in 23 starts.
Reliever Chasen Shreve gave up a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Juan Uribe in the seventh and the Yankees went into the ninth trailing 5-1, but the Bronx Bombers attempted a rally.
A-Rod walked as a pinch hitter with one out to put runners on first and second. Ellsbury then grounded a shot off Familia's leg that caromed into foul territory for a single that loaded the bases.
Familia showed he was OK with a warmup pitch, then he retired Brett Gardner on a fly ball and struck out Chase Headley to end it.
"He just made three really good pitches," Headley said. "When you have that kind of stuff that's what's going to happen."
The second-largest crowd in Citi Field history of 43,602 was abuzz from the start in the most meaningful game between the teams since the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series.
New York has been a pinstriped city for two decades but the Mets appear to be poised to light the Empire State Building orange and blue this fall thanks to a staff of young aces and a rejuvenated offense behind trade-deadline addition Yoenis Cespedes.
A foundering offense into July, the Mets have taken off since the arrival of Cespedes, Uribe and Kelly Johnson. The Mets three homers gave the team 29 in the past 17 games.
Four Mets pitchers, meanwhile, ended the Yankees homer streak at 11 games.
Mets manager Terry Collins talked about his young players gaining big-game experience in this set that would be helpful for the amped-up postseason.
Matz, however, looked unsettled at the start. He walked Gardner leading off the game and allowed Chris Young's sacrifice fly.
"That was the most fans I ever pitched in front of and the crowd was pretty electric," Matz said.
Matz gave up two hits in the second. He could be seen in the dugout during the bottom half shaking his head and muttering to himself.
The pep talk worked.
The 24-year-old from Long Island settled in nicely, yielding three singles over the next four innings.
"Just feeling comfortable out there," Matz said proved to be the difference as the game went on.
Murphy sent a two-out, full-count pitch from Tanaka into the Yankees bullpen for a 2-1 lead in the bottom half.
Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (elbow inflammation), shut down since last pitching Sept. 5, says he's feeling much better. He will play catch for first time on Monday.
Mets: Setup man Tyler Clippard wasn't available because his back tightened up when he was throwing pregame. He said he had treatment during the game and it loosened. He expects to be available Saturday but will know for sure when he sees how he feels in the morning.
Girardi doesn't like the one-and-done wild-card scenario used now in baseball. His preference: "My thought, it should be the best of three; you play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then your next series starts Thursday. So the penalty for not winning your division is you're going to play five days in a row."
Yankees: Michael Pineda is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in four starts since returning from a forearm muscle strain. He's thrown 14 scoreless innings in two starts in NL ballparks, both with Seattle.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard is set to make his 22nd career start, the second straight Mets rookie to get the ball in this series. In 10 starts at Citi Field, he is 7-1 with a 2.15 ERA.