Filling in for the injured star shortstop, Nunez got the big hits, made a clutch throw -- and navigated his first postgame session in the interview room.
Nunez had an RBI single among his career-high four hits and threw out Jose Reyes at third base on a favorable call for the New Yankees in a 5-1 victory over the crosstown rival Mets on Friday night.
"I know he's coming back," Nunez said of Jeter, who could return from the disabled list Monday. "Play hard, and one time my moment is coming for playing every day. These two weeks is a big opportunity for me to show my manager, myself that I could play every day."
And he's come through. Nunez has played in all 16 games Jeter has been out with a calf strain. He is hitting .309 (17 for 55) with six RBIs in that period and the Yankees are 13-3.
"He's done a good job of just trying to be himself," manager Joe Girardi said. "I've been very pleased with the way he's played in Derek's absence."
Mark Teixeira hit a two-run double, and Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano added RBI doubles. Ivan Nova (8-4) and six relievers stifled a Mets' offense that scored 54 runs in their last five games, helping the Yankees win their season-high sixth straight game.
Jonathon Niese (7-7) was pitching for the first time since leaving his start June 25 with a rapid heartbeat. After giving up three runs in the first, he shut down the Yankees through six innings of one of the most anticipated Subway Series matchups in the past several years.
Girardi emphasized that to stop the Mets it was essential to keep speedy leadoff batter Reyes in check. Reyes, who A-Rod called pregame "the world's greatest player," did have his 42nd multihit game of the season but was tagged out in the seventh trying to advance to third on a flyout to center with one out and the score 3-1.
"If he's safe the momentum goes back in their favor," Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson said.
Reyes electrified the largest crowd in Citi Field history, 42,020, when he tagged up from first on a fly to deep center. He took off for third when the relay bounced away from Nunez, but Nunez threw a one-hopper to third base and Rodriguez made a sweep tag that on replay appeared to miss Reyes, who was sliding headfirst.
"I think I just touched his sleeve," Rodriguez said. "I watched the replay and I wasn't sure."
Regardless of the call, Reyes would try for third again.
"I try to be aggressive on the base paths, and nothing is going to change that," he said. "That's the way I played in my career, and I'm going to continue to play like that and put pressure on the other team."
Home plate umpire Jerry Layne was behind Rodriguez when he called Reyes out.
"I had him tagging him on the side by the belt-buttocks area for an out," Layne told a pool reporter. "I called what I saw."
Reyes leaped up to contest the call and third base coach Chip Hale quickly moved in between the NL's leading hitter and Layne. Manager Terry Collins hurried out of the dugout, and after several moments of objecting with his arms held wide, he was ejected by Layne.
"I didn't know if he missed him until I saw the replay, which I thought he missed him," Collins said. "I just thought he tagged him high. That was my argument."
Girardi called on Mariano Rivera to face Reyes in the ninth with a runner on first and the Yankees leading 5-1. Reyes grounded out to third. Rivera did give up a hit before finishing it.
Nova won his fourth straight decision, giving up seven hits and a run over five innings. With Bartolo Colon scheduled to return Saturday and Phil Hughes only days away from being ready to rejoin the team, Nova could find himself the odd-man out unless the Yankees use a six-man rotation.
The Yankees broke out early against Niese. Nick Swisher singled leading off and Granderson followed with a hit. Batting right-handed, the switch-hitting Teixeira then lined a double down the right field line for two runs. Cano also had a one-out double to the opposite field to make it 3-0 and bring on the "Let's go Yankees!" chants.
"Let's go Mets!" calls broke out when the home team led off the bottom half with two straight singles. But Carlos Beltran popped out and Cano turned a stellar double play on Daniel Murphy's difficult grounder.
The Mets scored in the second with Ruben Tejada getting the last of three straight singles to cut it to 3-1.
The Mets loaded the bases in the fifth but Angel Pagan struck out on a breaking pitch.
"You can't always do the same thing," Nova said. "Last year I got men on base and I'd go to my fastball so now I use all my pitches."
NOTES: The Yankees are scheduled to open the 2011 season at Tampa Bay, according to a draft of a preliminary schedule. The Yankees are also in negotiations to play an exhibition that would open the Marlins new ballpark. ... Mets RHP Manny Acosta did not break his wrist Thursday, according to Collins. The Mets could make a move, though, if the wrist is too sore to allow Acosta to pitch this weekend.