NEW YORK (AP) -- The hugs and kisses said it all for Jose Contreras.
With his family looking on, he became the dominating pitcher the
New York Yankees expected all along.
Making his first start since his wife and children defected from
Cuba last week, Contreras struck out a career-high 10 in six
shutout innings, beating the New York Mets 8-1 Sunday in the opener
of a day-night doubleheader.
"I thought my dad was going to win," said 11-year-old Naylan
Contreras, watching her father pitch in the major leagues for the
At a tender postgame news conference, Contreras was accompanied
by wife Miriam and their two daughters. While Naylan sat on her
mother's lap, the pitcher sat next to them holding 3-year-old
Naylenis, repeatedly kissing her head and squeezing her after she
nodded off and fell asleep.
He dedicated his win to his family and to "the people of Cuba
who support me."
"During the game, I didn't think about my family," he said
through a translator. "I concentrated on getting one out after
another. I knew after the game my family would be here."
And that presence, he said, "gave me more motivation."
A day after the Mets tripped up their wealthy crosstown
neighbors 9-3 in the opener of this year's Subway Series, Contreras
restored the usual order, stifling the Mets on two hits until
cramps in his forearm and thumb forced him out three pitches into
He frustrated the Mets so much that Ty Wigginton broke his own
bat in half after he struck out in the third inning, then flung the
Derek Jeter, who turned 30 a day earlier, backed Contreras with
a pair of solo homers against Steve Trachsel (7-6), and Gary
Sheffield homered for the second straight day. Hideki Matsui added
an eighth-inning grand slam on the first pitch after former Yankee
Mike Stanton entered.
Signed to a $32 million, four-year contract after defecting from
Cuba in October 2002, Contreras (5-3) has showed flashes of
brilliance with the Yankees but has been maddeningly inconsistent.
The Yankees even sent him to the minor leagues for two starts last
He often talked of how much he missed his family, and Yankees
manager Joe Torre said that his family situation might have
contributed to his trouble adjusting.
Contreras' family left Cuba on a 31-foot boat last Sunday night
and were captured by U.S. Border Patrol agents on Big Pine Key,
Fla., the following morning. Contreras was reunited with them
Tuesday night in Miami Beach, and they looked on from a mezzanine
luxury suite on a sunny summer afternoon. His oldest daughter ate
"It tasted great," she said, also through a translator.
He allowed a single to Jose Reyes, his first batter, who
promptly was caught stealing by catcher John Flaherty. Contreras
then retired 10 in a row -- including four straight on strikeouts --
until center fielder Kenny Lofton dropped Kaz Matsui's easy fly in
Mike Cameron got the Mets' second hit, a leadoff single in the
fifth, but he, too, was thrown out at second by Flaherty. Contreras
then walked the bases loaded -- the four walks tied his career high
-- but he got out of trouble when Matsui flied softly to left on a
"I was very tense," Miriam Contreras said. "As the game
progressed and Jose was striking batters out, I was able to relax a
Contreras said the cramp was not serious and came from throwing
forkballs. He hadn't pitched for a week.
"This was a test today that he passed with flying colors,"
Contreras felt all his pitches were working. Still, he struggled
somewhat when pitching from the stretch.
"When he gets in trouble, he gets a little tight, starts to
throw the ball erratic," said Floyd, who struck out twice against
Contreras. "When you get him on the ropes, you have to make him
throw strikes and beat you."
Jeter, who went 3-for-4 with the fourth multihomer game of his
career, wasn't concerned at all with Contreras' results.
"To be honest with you, I don't care how he pitched," Jeter
said. "I'm just happy for him. He's got a big smile on his
Yankees 1B Jason Giambi, in 1-for-14 slide, has a viral
illness and went to a hospital during the opener to receive fluids,
then returned to the ballpark. ... Matsui hit a slam off Jeremy
Griffiths last year in the opener of a day-night doubleheader
against the Mets.