After falling behind early, the Yankees homered their way into a chance at facing Frank Francisco in the ninth inning.

Once again, though, without the long ball, they fell short.

Francisco wriggled out of a two-on, one-out jam, closing out the New York Mets' 6-4 victory Friday night after calling their crosstown rivals "chickens."

"We're asked this question every day. We keep putting them on, eventually it's going to change," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's all I can really tell you. We are who we are."

Alex Rodriguez hit his 641st homer and Andruw Jones also connected for the Yankees against Jonathon Niese at Citi Field. Robinson Cano added a two-run shot off Miguel Batista in the eighth to cut the lead to 6-4 after David Wright had an RBI double in the seventh.

They put runners on first and second against Francisco but Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira could not come through.

"We've got a couple of home run hitters up, and we know that's how we score runs," Girardi said. "So we thought we had a shot."

As has often been the case this season, the Yankees had trouble with runners on base. Leading the majors with 105 homers coming in but hitting only .218 with men in scoring position, the Yankees put two on in the first, second and ninth, and had a runner on in the third, fourth and seventh without scoring. They were 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position.

Ike Davis received a boost from the Yankees on his three-run homer, Justin Turner had a two-run single and the Mets scored five runs in the first inning with two outs. Andy Pettitte looked flat after waiting out a rainstorm that set back the start of the season's second Subway Series by 53 minutes.

Davis followed Turner's hit with a fly to right that a leaping Nick Swisher got his glove on. But when he hit the wall, the ball was nudged off the top of the fence and over for a 5-0 lead.

"I thought he was going to catch it the way he went back," Davis said.

Still, the homer-happy Yankees rallied with three late drives to set up a chance to see Francisco.

The reliever made headlines in New York this week by saying "I can't wait to face those chickens" and expressing his desire to strike out the side against the Yankees.

He explained Friday afternoon what he meant by his strange comment, saying he thinks the Yankees often complain about umpires' calls, especially balls and strikes.

"I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings," Francisco said after the win. "It was a simple comment."

Girardi didn't see getting an opportunity against Francisco as a shot at payback.

"I don't really worry about what he said," Girardi said. "The way we've been finding ways to win games, you think that you have a chance there."

In a heavy drizzle, Francisco made his first appearance against the Yankees for the Mets and — you got it — played chicken with a powerful lineup. Andres Torres made a stumbling catch in deep center field for the first out. The right-hander walked pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez before Derek Jeter singled. Francisco then struck out Granderson and got Teixeira to pop out for his 18th save in 21 opportunities.

"They tried to give me a little bit of a hard time," Francisco said. "Lately, I've been fighting a little bit with my command but I (found) myself out there and got out of the situation."

The Yankees lost their third in a row following a 10-game winning streak that began against the Mets. They had not lost three in a row since May 19-21.

The Mets totaled seven runs when they were swept in three games in the Bronx in early June. In the finale at Yankee Stadium, Niese (5-3) carried a 3-0 lead into the seventh but he was betrayed by his defense and gave up two unearned runs.

This time, he gave up the two homers and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings to help the Mets win their seventh straight interleague game.

Pettitte (3-3) gave up five runs for the second time this season and for the first time in an inning since Sept. 4, 2001, against Toronto.

"He's one of the best lefties in the game," Cano said. "But this is the game of baseball. You're not going to win every game. You're not going to throw seven innings. But, like I say, you've got to give credit to the other team."

Rodriguez homered with one out in the sixth, his drive landing in the container that holds the big apple in straightaway center. Jones homered to left in the seventh. Cano hit a two-run shot in the eighth.

NOTES: Mets LHP Johan Santana was given the key to the city by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in honor of his no-hitter June 1, the first in franchise history. ... Rodriguez was thrilled for the Miami Heat, NBA champions. He said he understood what LeBron James had gone through. ... Michigan QB Denard Robinson was on the field before the game.