Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe each homered, and closer Jeurys Familia shook off the Yankees' best shot in the ninth inning to help the Mets to a 5-1 victory Friday night in the opener of the Subway Series.
"It's definitely nice," Murphy said of the offensive production. "With the way our bullpen and our starting pitching is throwing the ball, they haven't needed much."
This was the latest regular-season matchup between the teams, and the National League East-leading Mets held their eight-game lead over Washington with 15 to play.
The Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind American League East-leading Toronto, which beat Boston 6-1.
Matz (4-0) used a new slider in overcoming a wild start to pitch six gutsy innings, working around seven hits.
"I've seen these guys put up runs before," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of his punchless lineup. "I know we don't have Alex. I know we don't have McCann, too, our big boppers. But we had our opportunities."
A-Rod walked as a pinch hitter with one out in the ninth to put runners on first and second. Ellsbury then grounded a shot that struck Familia near his left knee and caromed into foul territory for a single that loaded the bases.
Familia showed he was OK with a warm-up pitch, then he retired Brett Gardner on a fly ball and struck out Headley.
"I'm feeling good," Familia said.
Tanaka gave up two runs and five hits in six innings, and left after throwing only 82 pitches. Duda and Murphy hit solo home runs off the Japanese star.
The 43,602-person crowd, the second-largest in Citi Field history, was abuzz from the start in the most meaningful game between the teams since the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series.
A foundering offense into July, the Mets have taken off since the arrival of Cespedes, Uribe and Kelly Johnson. Uribe hit a two-run shot as a pinch hitter in the seventh to open a 4-1 lead. The drive was the team's 29th in the past 17 games.
"Yo has been unbelievable, but in the last couple of weeks, you keep looking up and other guys are getting big hits, and tonight other guys had big hits," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Four Mets pitchers, meanwhile, ended the Yankees' homer streak at 11 games.
Collins talked about his young players gaining big-game experience in this set that would be helpful for the amped-up postseason.
Matz, however, looked unsettled at the start. He walked Gardner leading off the game and allowed Chris Young's sacrifice fly.
"That was the most fans I ever pitched in front of, and the crowd was pretty electric," Matz said.
Matz gave up two more hits in the second, needing 43 pitches for the first two innings. He could be seen in the dugout during the bottom half shaking his head and muttering to himself.
The pep talk worked.
The 24-year-old from Long Island settled in nicely, yielding just three singles over the next four innings.
"Just feeling comfortable out there," Matz said proved to be the difference as the game went on.
Murphy sent a two-out, full-count pitch from Tanaka into the Yankees' bullpen for a 2-1 lead in the bottom half.
Duda's homer in the first was his first long ball since Aug. 2, a span of 19 games. It ended a scoreless streak by Yankees starters at Citi Field at 21 2/3 innings, dating to May 28, 2013.
Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (elbow inflammation), shut down since last pitching Sept. 5, says he's feeling much better. He will play catch for the first time Monday.
Mets: Setup man Tyler Clippard wasn't available because his back tightened up when he was throwing pregame. He said he had treatment during the game and it loosened. He expects to be available Saturday but will know for sure when he sees how he feels in the morning.
Girardi doesn't like the one-and-done wild-card scenario used now in baseball. His preference: "My thought, it should be the best of three; you play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then your next series starts Thursday. So the penalty for not winning your division is you're going to play five days in a row."
Yankees: Michael Pineda is 1-1 with a 5.82 ERA in four starts since returning from a forearm muscle strain. He has thrown 14 scoreless innings in two starts in NL ballparks, both with Seattle.
Mets: Noah Syndergaard is set to make his 22nd career start, the second straight Mets rookie to get the ball in this series. In 10 starts at Citi Field, he is 7-1 with a 2.15 ERA.
Mariners walk Ohtani in 9th, hold off Angels to keep pace
— Ty France homered, Jake Fraley scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error and the streaking Seattle Mariners held off the Los Angeles Angels 6-5 Friday night to keep pace in the AL wild-card chase.
Fried brilliant in three-hitter, Braves silence Padres 4-0
— Max Fried retired his last 18 batters and finished with a three-hitter for his second career shutout, and the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves beat the San Diego Padres 4-0 Friday to split an unusual night of baseball.
Ty France belts solo HR in M's win over Angels
Ty France hits a home run 419 feet to center field in a 6-5 win over the Angels.
Montas reaches 200 Ks, A's pound first-place Astros 14-2
— Frankie Montas pitched two-hit ball over seven innings and became the first Athletics pitcher in 20 years to reach 200 strikeouts in a season, helping Oakland pound the Houston Astros 14-2 on Friday night to support its slim playoff hopes.
Pinder bashes grand slam in Athletics' win over the Astros
Chad Pinder crushes a grand slam to left field in the Athletics' big win vs. the Astros.
Chicago White Sox P Dylan Cease hit by comebacker, exits with bruised triceps
White Sox starter Dylan Cease was struck by a comebacker in Friday night's game against the Indians and left with a bruised right triceps.