Decimated by injuries that deleted 60 percent of their Opening Day starting rotation and have spread to the position players, the Yankees are 4-9 in their last 13 games. Tuesday's loss dropped them back to .500, but their 19-19 record is still right in the thick of a jammed-up American League East.
"It's not like we're buried; there's no one that's taken off in our division," manager Joe Girardi said. "There's other people that are dealing with things, but obviously we have to right the ship."
Girardi correctly notes that there is no pitching surplus laying around the league; the Yankees once thought they had one, wielding eight legitimate candidates for five rotation spots, but that spring-time optimism has given way to a familiar 2013 mood.
Girardi had time to ponder that, as he saw only the first five innings from the bench, ejected by home-plate umpire Jerry Layne for arguing balls and strikes. Girardi saw enough to capture the tone of the night, as it was clear early on that Nuno didn't have good stuff.
"It was one of those days," Nuno said. "I felt good in the bullpen, and I just thought it would carry into the game. I was kind of rushing myself, trying to overthrow sometimes, and the offspeed stuff didn't help today."
Nuno had been quite serviceable in four starts since being promoted from the bullpen into the rotation, but he was in trouble early, laboring through a 37-pitch first inning.
David Wright ripped an RBI single, one of three hits for the Mets' captain, and Curtis Granderson continued to celebrate his visit to the Bronx with a three-run homer -- the slugger's second homer in as many nights, and the 66th of his career at a ballpark that fits his swing perfectly.
The Yankees clawed back with a three-run first inning against Zack Wheeler, highlighted by a two-run Brian McCann homer, but that was as close as they'd get before the Mets pulled away against Nuno and Aceves.
"We had some really good at-bats in the first inning, and we were able to continue that throughout the entire game," Daniel Murphy said.
Juan Lagares lifted a third-inning sacrifice fly and Murphy popped a sac fly in the fourth, chasing Nuno, who allowed four hits and walked four with a strikeout over 3 1/3 innings.
"It's just doing my part, and my part is throwing strikes," Nuno said. "The command wasn't there. Four walks is kind of frustrating, just knowing that's not my game."
Aceves allowed another four runs over the next 1 2/3 frames. Wright greeted the right-hander with a run-scoring single, Ruben Tejada knocked in a run in the fifth and Murphy clanged a long three-run homer off the right-field foul pole.
The Yankees added runs off Wheeler in the fourth and fifth innings, with Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano picking up window-dressing RBIs. The rally fizzled as Kelly Johnson was rung up on a called third strike, ending the inning and prompting Girardi's ejection.
Wheeler wasn't sharp, lasting 4 1/3 innings in his first career start against the Yankees and charged with five runs, seven hits and six walks. He struck out two. The win went to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who turned in 3 2/3 innings of one-run relief before Jeurys Familia finished up the ninth.
"You're going to run into stretches where you lose tough ballgames, and you lose seven or eight in a row, and it's the way this game is," McCann said.
Yangervis Solarte added his third career homer in the eighth inning, and McCann finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Matt Daley, a Mets fan from in Garden City, N.Y., who now wears a Yankees uniform, pitched three scoreless innings of hitless relief.
That provides encouragement, but not as much as the momentum boost that the Yankees might get from sending Masahiro Tanaka to the mound at Citi Field.
With Ivan Nova lost to Tommy John surgery, Michael Pineda on the shelf until June and CC Sabathia visiting with Dr. James Andrews, Tanaka is the Yanks' best bet to end what has become a six-game slide against their crosstown rivals.
"We've got to go out and win a game tomorrow; a lot of times that changes the mood," Girardi said. "You get some distance out of Tanaka, and your bullpen is not taxed so much. It can change things a lot."