"I'm not searching for anything like I had been earlier in the year," Johnson said. "I felt like my stuff was there. I know I pitched bad and I know I gave up eight runs, but I felt better than what the line score indicates. Regardless, we didn't win and I pitched bad."
"I think it was just one of those days where you say he just wasn't as good as he was the last couple of times," manager Joe Torre said. "I don't think it was a step back; I didn't think he was lost out there."
Steve Trachsel pitched six-plus innings of two-run ball, giving up seven singles to the Yankees while walking four batters. The Yankees helped his cause with a 1-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position, stranding eight runners on base.
"He did what he does," Torre said of Trachsel. "He's a grinder; he bends a lot, but he doesn't break very often."
David Wright doubled in a pair of runs against Johnson in the first, giving the Mets a quick lead. In Johnson's 18 starts this season, he has posted a 10.00 ERA and a .328 opponents' batting average in the first inning.
"I think he was frustrated because he wasn't able to do what he wanted to do," Torre said. "That's all about location. He just wasn't consistent with his placement."
Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter opened the bottom of the first with singles, putting the tying runs on base. Torre decided to try a hit-and-run with Jason Giambi facing a 3-2 pitch, but Giambi took it on the outside corner for strike three. Damon was thrown out trying to steal third, and the Yankees had run themselves out of a potentially big inning.
"It didn't work very well, and I take the hit for that," Torre said. "I don't look for him to strike out very often, especially taking strike three. Early in the game, we thought we would try to put a little pressure on and stay out of the double play; it didn't work."
"I thought it was running off the plate," Giambi said. "I should have fouled it off. If I had it to do all over again, I would have swung 3-0."
The Yankees loaded the bases with no outs in the third, putting them in position to take a lead. Alex Rodriguez singled in one run, while Jorge Posada grounded into a double play, scoring a second run to tie the game. That was all the Yankees would get in the inning.
"We had bases loaded and nobody out and we came away with two runs," Torre said. "We could have made more of it, but we didn't. You have to give them credit for making pitches."
The Mets unloaded on the Big Unit in the fourth, using four hits and two walks to send nine men to the plate. Ramon Castro and Paul Lo Duca each had two-run singles, while Jose Reyes knocked in the other run as the Mets took a 7-2 lead.
"I was pretty much a two-pitch pitcher; fastball, slider," Johnson said. "I didn't throw my splitter much today; when I did, that was the Lo Duca base hit that got through the hole."
"It was just command, simple as that," Posada said. "His stuff was there; 94, 95, 96 [mph] a couple times. They got base hits, and walks really killed us, especially to lead off that inning."
Johnson gave up a solo homer to Eli Marrero in the sixth, accounting for his final run. After going 3-2 with a 3.14 ERA in his last six outings, Johnson took a step back, watching his ERA bloat back to 5.25 on Saturday. In his two starts against the Mets this season, Johnson is 0-1 with an 11.45 ERA.
"I thought my stuff was as good," Johnson said. "I go back to the game that I pitched at Shea and I think my stuff, velocity-wise and stuff-wise, was better, but you look at the eight runs and it doesn't indicate that. It's one game and I move on."
The Yankees had two men on and no outs in the seventh, but Jeter grounded into a double play, squashing any hope for a big inning. Rodriguez added a solo home run for the Yankees in the eighth, his 17th, but it was too little, too late.
"We're getting guys on and our at-bats have been good, we just haven't been able to come up with that big hit," Jeter said. "Overall, I think our approach has been good."
"I think we're capable of being more productive than we were today," Torre said. "We had opportunities, we just couldn't cash in on them."
In the Yankees' last seven games, they are 6-for-60 with runners in scoring position, yet they have won five of those contests.
"Teams are doing a good job not letting us get that big inning," Giambi said. "We've got the train moving, but we can't quite get over the top."