NEW YORK -- It wouldn't have been the Yankees' style to flash too much reaction for an opponent popping off in the tabloids, and for the most part, they met Frank Francisco's "chickens" comment with shrugs and smirks.
Make no mistake, however: The Yankees wanted a crack at Francisco, and when it arrived in the ninth inning, they wished it would have turned out differently. The Mets' closer backed up his words and did his job, locking down a 6-4 victory at Citi Field on Friday.
"It really wasn't a big deal on our side," said Mark Teixeira, who popped up for the final out. "I wish we would have won the game. It doesn't matter who's out there pitching. We've been through enough around here over the last however many years that something like that is just kind of funny."
There didn't seem to be too many belly laughs when the Yankees arrived in Queens to see copies of the New York Post littered around the visiting clubhouse, displaying Derek Jeter's head pasted on a chicken's body.
But the Yankees seemed more confused than irked by the comments, which Francisco explained stemmed from his belief that the Yankees complain too much about balls and strikes.
"I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings," Francisco said. "I made a simple comment and I think a lot of guys took it the wrong way."
Name-calling wasn't the biggest reason the Yankees dropped their first contest of the season to the Mets, coming off a Subway Series sweep in the Bronx earlier this month.
Following a 53-minute rain delay, Andy Pettitte was hit hard in a five-run first inning -- the most the Yankees have permitted in the first inning all year -- and despite slugging three homers of their own, the Bombers couldn't claw all the way back.
"That was the game," Pettitte said. "I blew it from the get-go. I felt like I got in a pretty good rhythm later in the game. It's frustrating, that's for sure. "
The Mets sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning against Pettitte, with Ike Davis' three-run homer serving as the big blow. Davis clubbed a soaring shot to right field that Nick Swisher misjudged against the sky, leaping and tipping the ball over the eight-foot wall.
"I mean, he hit it a mile high," Swisher said. "I just tried to track it back to the wall. Once you get to the wall, that wall ain't exactly five feet tall. I tried to get up there and make the play; just couldn't make it."
Justin Turner had earlier laced a two-run single in the frame; Pettitte said that pitch was somewhat better than the "unacceptable" one he left up to Davis.
"Just a monumental mistake to Ike; I hung a cutter right there, first pitch," Pettitte said. "You just can't put the team in that kind of a hole."
The Yankees managed eight hits in 6 1/3 innings against starter Jon Niese, scoring twice on solo homers as Niese logged his first victory in three career starts against the Bombers.
Alex Rodriguez bashed a sixth-inning cutter off the Home Run Apple in center field -- now having homered in back-to-back games for the Yankees -- and Andruw Jones unloaded on a seventh-inning fastball to send it over the second left-field fence.
Robinson Cano crushed a two-run shot to right-center in the eighth off Miguel Batista, closing the Yankees within two runs but with still more room to climb.
"We are who we are," manager Joe Girardi said. "There are basketball clubs that are built around three-point shooting, and when they don't make their threes, they don't win. We're a home run-hitting club. If we hit two- and three-run homers, we usually win games."
Pettitte blanked the Mets over his last five innings of work, keeping alive a stretch in which he completed at least six innings in all eight of his starts this season.
"I've been throwing the ball too good, my command has been too good. That's what I expected to do," Pettitte said. "There's no good taken out of this right now."
The Mets added an insurance run in the seventh off Cory Wade as David Wright doubled home Omar Quintanilla, and that run would loom large as the the Yankees tried to make up a two-run deficit in the ninth against Francisco.
The inning might have played out differently if not for Andres Torres' terrific tumbling catch of a Russell Martin liner to open the inning.
Raul Ibanez walked and Jeter singled, but Francisco struck out Curtis Granderson on three pitches and induced Teixeira to pop harmlessly into shallow center field for the final out.
"The game's not over until the last out," Jeter said. "We had an opportunity, but he did his job and he got out of it."