NEW YORK — Joe Girardi sat at the interview table and rubbed his closely cropped hair, contemplating how CC Sabathia could have beaten Roy Halladay and Johan Santana in the same week after struggling for most of May.
A rationale eluding him, the Yankees manager reached for a trendy answer.
"I think it's global warming," Girardi said to laughter after Sabathia shut down the Mets with four-hit ball over eight innings in his rematch with Santana. "I don't know, he was just a little off. … It's such a fine line when you pitch and live right on the corners, and is as aggressive as he is; similar to Halladay."
Mark Teixeira hit a grand slam to support Sabathia and the Yankees beat the Mets 4-0 Sunday. The Yankees won the final two games of the Subway Series between crosstown rivals to even the season matchup at three games.
Sabathia, denied a shot at his first shutout of the season by a 22-minute rain delay in the eighth, didn't put too much stock in beating former Cy Young Award winners Halladay – and the Phillies on Tuesday – and Santana.
"I'm not facing those guys. I'm facing their lineups," Sabathia said of his two wins against National League East aces.
The Yankees victory, combined with Tampa Bay's loss to Florida, moved the Yankees into sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since April 21.
The Mets lost their second straight after winning seven in a row on the road. They took two of three from the Yankees in Queens in May and won the opener in the Bronx on Friday night, 4-0.
"That team is as hot as any team in baseball and to come up against (Mike) Pelfrey and Santana, both guys pitching as well as anybody, it's good to win two out of three," Alex Rodriguez said.
The Yankees' loss came against Hisanori Takahashi.
Sabathia and Santana also matched up in the finale of the series at Citi Field with Santana giving up a run in 7 2/3 stellar innings to beat Sabathia, who was knocked around for six runs. But Santana faltered in the third inning Sunday, giving up Teixeira's fifth career grand slam.
The Yankees loaded the bases with none out on three singles, two infield hits – including Nick Swisher's perfect bunt that caused Santana (5-4) and second baseman Ruben Tejada to collide at first.
"Element of surprise. Sneak attack," said Swisher, who was bunting on his own.
Sabathia (8-3) twice induced double plays and struck out six in winning his fourth straight start. Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth to complete the four-hitter.
Before the game, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" filmed a scene on the field. They weren't here to help the Yankees' banged-up lineup but to surprise a family with the promise to rebuild a house.
The Yankees, who finished a nine-game homestand at 6-3, head west to face the Arizona Diamondbacks and former manager Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Santana still has not found success at the new Yankee Stadium. He gave up nine runs over three innings in one start last year, his first at the ballpark. On Sunday, he allowed eight hits and four runs in six innings. Across the street at the old Yankee Stadium, he had a 2.05 ERA.
After a five-start stretch in which he gave up just three earned runs, Santana has allowed four runs in each of his past three outings.
Brett Gardner led off the third inning with a single. Derek Jeter, back in the lineup after missing a game because of a bruised heel, followed with a tapper to third that forced David Wright to make a rushed throw across his body, which pulled Ike Davis off first base. Jeter was given a hit because he appeared to have beaten the throw anyway.
Swisher then pushed a bunt between first and the pitcher's mound that Davis fielded before making a sideways flip toward the bag. Santana raced to cover and the ball hit off his glove as he collided with Tejada.
"We have a routine play, one we were not able to make it," Santana said.
Teixeira followed by hitting a 1-1 pitch on a high arc that bounced off the top of the left-field wall and traveled several rows into the stands for his first slam since August 2008 for the Angels at old Yankee Stadium.
"In this ballpark, it's a home run. In our ballpark, it's a different story," Jerry Manuel said.
Teixeira hit a two-run homer Saturday, making it the first time this season the struggling slugger has homered in back-to-back games.
After the game, the Mets sent RHP Jenrry Mejia to Double-A Binghamton to work on becoming a starter. He pitched a scoreless inning of relief Sunday. RHP Bobby Parnell was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. … Manuel said RHP John Maine (shoulder) was "not feeling well" and will be re-evaluated. Maine threw 88 pitches in a rehab start Friday for Buffalo … C Francisco Cervelli hit his third triple of the year for the Yankees.