The Yankees showed their softer side in yesterday’s 9-3 win over the Mets to clinch the first leg of this year’s Subway Series.

A day after smashing four homers to stretch their major league-leading long ball total to 70, the Yankees tagged their city rivals for eight runs in the seventh inning without a single pitch leaving the yard.

“The feeling is, it doesn’t make a difference what it looks like,” said Derek Jeter, who tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run single off Mike Pelfrey. “A hit is a hit.”

Jeter’s base knock sparked the Yankees’ most productive frame since scoring nine runs last August against Detroit. During the 29-minute inning, the Yankees went 4-for-4 with the bases loaded and 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position after being 4-for-33 in their previous five home games.

“I don’t care how you score - home run, single double or triple,” Jeter said after his second bases loaded hit in his last 24 at-bats. “It’s good for us to have an inning like that but I don’t care how you (get) hits.”

It was the complete opposite of the previous six innings against Pelfrey, though the Yankees hit some balls hard and right at people. Until Jeter’s hit, the Yankees had just Curtis Granderson’s 16th home run and their 71st in 45 games as their only run.

“Our guys just kept grinding it out,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I felt like that was the hit that we were looking for.”

It was the hit the Yankees desired because until that point, they went hitless in their first 12 at-bats with men on base. Then they loaded the bases with nobody out on a base hit, walk and hit batsman. And just like that, the slump ended with a flourish, starting at the top of the order and running all the way through.

Following a sacrifice bunt by Granderson and an intentional walk to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees took the lead on the complete reverse of a home run – a slow little roller down the third base by Alex Rodriguez.

“We’ve been talking about playing small ball for the last week or two,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think it could have got any smaller. Those are the things we need to do. We can’t depend on the three-run home run all the time.”

Not depending on home runs continued with Robinson Cano’s line-drive single to right field followed by Brett Gardner’s two-run double to left and concluded by Chris Dickerson’s bloop two-run double to left.

The rally was what the Yankees had been looking for and not necessarily because of the situational hitting. It was because for one day at least, focusing on the home runs were shifted aside with the idea of having a more complete lineup.

“It almost seems like to me, that a home run is not a hit, the way we talk about it,” Girardi said. “A home run is actually a hit. It’s just a hit that goes a little farther than most and our club is built around a lot of power and that’s what we have in our lineup.”


Sidebar/Notes:

The evolution in Ivan Nova from a September call-up to a pitcher able to work in survival mode was evident yesterday.

Nova could have had a worse day after allowing a career-high 11 hits, but he limited the Mets to three runs in the second inning, giving the Yankees an opportunity to eventually overcome a two-run deficit.

“He did (grind it out),” Girardi said. “Part of the issue was that he couldn’t hold on to the ball when they hit it to them. He had a double play and he should have been out of that inning with one run realistically. But he did grind it out because at times, he struggled a little bit with his command but he made some pitches when he had.”

One example of making pitches when he had to showed, during a three-run Met second inning when Jason Pridie was on third with two outs for Jose Reyes. The inning ended there when Reyes lined a fastball to Granderson in center field.

Another showed when used one his 35 curveballs to retire on an inning-ending double play to Reyes. And the last was another curve to Pridie that stranded runners at first and second in the sixth.

“I think it’s pretty good,” Girardi said of Nova’s progression. “He had a decent start against Minnesota in his first start and then he kind of went through a rough time a little bit and he has seemed to have righted the ship pretty well since then. He has kept us in every game and has given us some distance too.”

Nova overcame a career high in hits, mostly because of virtually no extra-base hits. He did not allow an extra-base hit until Carlos Beltran doubled on his 110th pitch with two outs in the seventh.

WORTH NOTING:

Girardi said that he instructed Granderson to sacrifice in that situation and the center fielder had no problem doing so.

“No problem,” Granderson said after his second sacrifice bunt. “I bat second. I’ve been able to get sacrifices down.”

Once again, Rodriguez had another hit after an intentional walk to Teixeira. He is 6-for-8 with 19 RBI in 10 career plate appearances following a free pass to the Yankee first baseman but perhaps more importantly, he is hitting .481 (13-for-27) in his last six games.