NEW YORK -- Tyler Clippard beat all his new teammates to the Yankees clubhouse and quickly changed in a makeshift locker. He spent the next four hours watching the Bad News Bears, checking text messages, adjusting his headphones, flipping a ball to himself and wandering into the dugout.
Then, it was time to work.
The baby-faced Clippard made his major league debut by striking out Jose Reyes on three pitches and delivered the poised performance the banged-up Yankees needed, leading them past the New York Mets 6-2 Sunday night.
"Best day of my life," Clippard said.
With Mets fans playfully chasing Yankees' rooters with brooms around Shea Stadium, Clippard helped the Yankees avoid a Subway Series sweep and stop a three-game losing streak.
"It was unbelievable tonight," Clippard said. "When I first walked out to the mound, it was definitely overwhelming. It was a lot different than in the minor leagues."
The 22-year-old rookie held the Mets to three hits over six impressive innings. The Yankees' Clippard also showed shades of the real Yankee Clipper -- the great Joe DiMaggio.
Clippard lined a double to deep right-center field, keeping the ball for a souvenir, and put down a nifty sacrifice bunt that set up Johnny Damon's two-run double.
"This is crazy," he said. "I was just excited to get a hit."
Alex Rodriguez hit his big league-leading 17th homer, and Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada also connected. The Yankees begin their upcoming home set against Boston trailing the AL East leaders by 10½ games.
David Wright homered for the third time in two days for the Mets, and Damion Easley hit a two-out homer off Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Their four-game winning streak ended, the Mets head to Atlanta leading the NL East by 2½ games.
Promoted from Triple-A after Darrell Rasner broke a finger Saturday, Clippard became the seventh rookie pitcher to start for the Yankees this season. Worried about traffic, he took car service and arrived more than four hours before the game began.
"To come in here, in front of all these people, in a strange ballpark, that's pretty impressive," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Clippard (1-0) was nicked just by Wright's solo homer. He retired the first four batters, later got Jose Reyes on a fly ball to leave the bases loaded and breezed through the final seven hitters.
Featuring a sharp breaking ball that set up a fastball that barely reached 90 mph, the lanky righty struck out six and walked three. Clippard twice caught Carlos Delgado looking and also fanned Wright and Paul Lo Duca.
"He got thrown into the fire," Wright said. "We had a chance. He settled down well. He's got a live fastball and a herky-jerky motion, all arms and legs."
Plus, an aggressive swing.
Clippard said he had not batted since high school. Before the game, he asked a clubhouse man for the lightest bat the Yankees had available and was given a shiny, black Miguel Cairo model.
"I was telling my teammates back in Scranton that I would hit a bomb," Clippard kidded.
After throwing a no-hitter in Double-A last year, Clippard became the Yankees' fifth pitcher this season to make his major league debut with a start. The only other team ever to do that in the first 42 games was Kansas City of the Union Association in 1884, the Elias Sports Bureau said.
Jeter's two-run homer made it 4-1 in the fourth. Posada homered into the mezzanine off John Maine (5-2) in the fifth and Rodriguez added a solo drive in the seventh.
Prone to control trouble, Maine started slinging the ball in the fourth and wound up in danger. A pair of four-pitch walks and Clippard's bunt brought up Damon with two outs.
Damon hit a blooper that fell in front of diving right fielder Shawn Green for a go-ahead double, and Jeter followed with a line drive over the fence in left-center.
Wright put the Mets ahead in the second with his home run. The Mets later loaded the bases with two outs for Reyes, and the crowd stood and chanted when the count went to 3-1 -- hoping for a big hit. Reyes instead lofted a harmless fly.
"We had opportunities to get to the kid early," Mets manager Willie Randolph said. "The kid hung in there."
- A sellout crowd of 56,438 let the Mets set an attendance record for a three-game series at 168,912.
- Posada extended his hitting streak to a career-best 15 games.
- Jeter also doubled in stretching his hitting streak to 15 games.
- The Mets fell to 84-84 overall in interleague play.
- The Yankees are 33-24 against the Mets in interleague action. The teams play three times at Yankee Stadium on June 15-17.
- Doug Mientkiewicz was hit in the right leg by a pitch from Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano in the seventh, but did not get a base. Plate umpire Tony Randazzo ruled Mientkiewicz didn't try to move out of the way. "Stay here. No," Randazzo was heard saying on the ESPN microphone. Mientkiewicz later popped up.
- Posada hit his 204th homer, moving past Roger Maris into 10th place on the Yankees' career list.