We have no idea if Harry Houdini was a baseball fan, but if he did enjoy the game he would have loved Friday night's resumption of the Subway Series.
Great escapes were everywhere you looked as the Mets and Yankees kept putting runners on base and then leaving them there thanks to pitchers who got the outs when they needed them. The game was largely decided by the only jam that a pitcher couldn't escape without incurring serious damage.
Jonathon Niese walked into trouble from the get-go, allowing hits to four of the first five batters he faced. That led to three Yankee runs, all they would wind up needing in what turned out to be a 5-1 win.
Niese's early struggles sucked a lot of life out of the biggest crowd in Citi Field history, but he lit the place back up in the sixth when he pitched his way into and out of a bases loaded, one out jam. Niese struck out Jorge Posada, pinch hitting for Ivan Nova, and then got Nick Swisher to ground out to end the threat.
Getting out of the inning itself was obviously huge, but it loomed even bigger because it checked a big move by Joe Girardi to bust the game wide open. After sending Posada up to hit, Girardi put Brett Gardner into run for Andruw Jones to leave his bench awfully thin with a lot of baseball still to be played.
The move was immediately second guessed, but it's hard to understand why. Nova had been in trouble all night, including a bases loaded spot in the bottom of the fifth, and Gardner's defense plays a big role in a close game.
Ultimately, Girardi bet that Nova didn't have many more escapes left in him.
It worked out for him because the Yankee bullpen was down with the program Nova established in his first five innings. Put runners on base, make everybody sweat and then steer clear of disaster with a little help from the defense and maybe the umpires.
Alex Rodriguez made some sharp plays at third, Mark Teixeira had some nifty scoops and Gardner made Girardi look smart with a couple of running catches beyond Jones's skill set. Still, it took a controversial play at third kept the Mets from sparking a comeback in the seventh.
With no one out and Jose Reyes on first, Justin Turner launched a ball deep into center that Curtis Granderson caught and fired back in to Nunez as Reyes took second. Nunez didn't catch the ball and didn't pursue it right away as Reyes took off for third.
Nunez, whose umpteenth disappointing defensive play is mitigated by his four hits and insurance RBI in the eighth, retrieved the ball, fired to A-Rod and Reyes was called out after what appeared to be a phantom tag at third base. The Mets had good reason to be apoplectic, Terry Collins got ejected but the Yankees wound up getting out of yet another jam.
Reyes's decision will likely generate some debate, but it is hard to argue with a guy dying the way he lives. Reyes had a good chance and the Yankees needed to make a perfect throw to get him (even if they didn't, you know, actually get him).
What's more, it isn't like the Mets didn't have plenty of other chances to score runs on Friday night. They just couldn't figure out how to keep the Yankees from pulling rabbits out of their hats.