NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez has cemented his reputation as a historic punisher with the bases loaded, but even as he was only able to muster a weak roller on the infield grass, it proved to be all the Yankees needed.
They'd add much, much more. A-Rod's infield hit knocked in the go-ahead run in an eight-run seventh inning as the Yankees came from behind to defeat the Mets, 9-3, and take the rubber game of the Subway Series.
"I loved it -- I was the happiest guy in the stadium," Rodriguez said. "We've been talking about playing small ball here for the last week or two, and I don't think it could have gotten any smaller."
An intentional walk to Mark Teixeira preceded a pitching change and brought up Rodriguez, the owner of 22 career grand slams, needing one more to tie Lou Gehrig's all-time Major League record.
Instead, the at-bat against Pedro Beato produced a nubber that third baseman Willie Harris had to eat, watching Francisco Cervelli charge home with the run that would tip the balance of the interborough set.
"When you put the ball in play with runners on, sometimes good things are going to happen like that," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It wasn't a grand slam, but it was just as effective."
After his team had been limited to a run over the first six frames, Derek Jeter gave the Yankees a brand-new game in the seventh, stroking a two-run single that chased Mets starter Mike Pelfrey.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Jeter connected with a dribbling single up the middle that shortstop Jose Reyes couldn't get to, marking the captain's 2,975th career hit.
"A lot of times, it's not how hard you hit them, it's where you hit them," Jeter said.
By the time the 29-minute half-inning was complete, the Yankees had sent 13 men to the plate against four Mets pitchers in their biggest barrage of the year.
Ultimately, the Mets ignored the book on A-Rod, who is 6-for-8 with 19 RBIs in 10 career plate appearances following an intentional walk to Teixeira, including the postseason.
"I'm aware of A-Rod and who he is, but the situation dictates that you try to get out of the inning with a ground ball. And we actually got it," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Beato also surrendered a run-scoring single to Robinson Cano. Brett Gardner added a two-run double off Pat Misch and Chris Dickerson contributed a two-run single as the wheels came off for the Amazin's.
"We were fortunate," Jeter said. "We hit a lot of balls that fell in for us. Sometimes things are contagious."
The seventh-inning outburst made a winner of Luis Ayala, who relieved starter Ivan Nova for the final out of the top half and pitched a silent eighth.
Getting hits with runners in scoring position was another positive sign for the Yankees, who homered four times on Saturday but took criticism for a feast-or-famine, homer-happy approach.
They had a taste of the long ball in this one as well: Curtis Granderson homered for the second time in as many games, slugging a solo blast, his 16th, to right field in the first inning off of Pelfrey.
Granderson seemed even more pleased by his sacrifice bunt in the seventh, which followed Jeter's game-tying single and helped set up Rodriguez's go-ahead hit.
"I bat second; I'm known for being able to get sacrifice bunts down and do that," Granderson said. "I've been doing it my whole career. I'm definitely not surprised by any means."
Nova didn't have his best stuff, scattering a career-high 11 hits in 6 2/3 innings, but he limited the damage to three runs and said he'd head home feeling good about his outing.
"I feel happy because we won the game and I feel happy with the way I threw the ball," Nova said. "I've got [a start] five days ahead, so I've got to start thinking ahead and start working."
All three of the Mets' runs came in the second inning, and Nova might have been able to escape with less if he hadn't juggled a potential double-play ball from Justin Turner.
Settling for just one out, Willie Harris stroked an RBI single, Ronnie Paulino knocked in a run with a groundout and Jason Pridie collected a run-scoring knock.
Nova slammed the door from there, despite all the hits he surrendered. He tossed 110 pitches, his most in the big leagues, and allowed just one extra-base hit -- a double hit by Carlos Beltran on his final pitch.
"It was impressive," A-Rod said. "I didn't think he had his good stuff today by any means, but he kept throwing strikes and kept attacking, and kept his composure."
The Yankees have won five of their last six games and improved to a perfect 9-0 in home rubber games against the Mets, but there was no chest-thumping about scoring bragging rights for the weekend.
"It's not over, in a sense, because we have to go over there in the month of July," Girardi said. "Obviously, we won a series at home, which is good. We've struggled at home of late. And we're going to play them again."