NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez sent a soaring drive toward the left-field wall, and for an instant, it seemed like the Yankees were about to say goodbye to a baseball and eight innings of Subway Series frustration.

It was the pitch Rodriguez was looking for, the swing he wanted, but -- as half of Shea Stadium roared -- not quite the result. Rodriguez was a little jammed, and his would-be home run shot dropped harmlessly; the Yankees soon similarly fell, suffering a 3-1 defeat to the Mets on Sunday.

"I thought, for a moment, it had a chance," Rodriguez said. "But I didn't get it."

With Rodriguez's last gasp secured, Mets closer Billy Wagner polished off the rest of the frame, saving a splendid victory for enigmatic left-hander Oliver Perez, who stifled the Yankees to just three hits and one run over seven innings.

The funky Perez (6-5) has frustrated the Mets with his inconsistency, but as far as the Yankees are concerned, he has just been frustrating.

"It seems like he always pitches well against us," Rodriguez said. "He had a good fastball and threw more strikes than our reports told us."

In anticipation of a challenge, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stacked his lineup with as many right-handed bats as possible, and one of those picks came through -- Wilson Betemit, playing first base instead of Jason Giambi, reached Perez for a 425-foot home run over the left-field bleachers in the seventh inning.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, that was all they managed. Betemit's ball was arguably the second-best shot the Yankees hit off Perez, but Rodriguez's fourth-inning blast to the left-field mezzanine hooked to the wrong side of the foul pole, landing as just a very long souvenir as part of a fruitless 10-pitch at-bat.

"We knew what we were up against going into today's game," Johnny Damon said.

That left the rest of the offense struggling to provide right-hander Darrell Rasner with support. It was a game that Rodriguez said the Yankees should have won, on an afternoon when Rasner dodged damage through five innings.

"We knew if we could get a couple of runs that Rasner could hold them down, which he sort of did," Damon said. "But he's been our tough-luck pitcher this year. We haven't scored him runs and his record shows it."

Though he burned 102 pitches doing so, Rasner (4-6) held the Mets to just two runs, and though he lost five of his six June starts, it should be considered progress.

"You throw [102] pitches in five innings and you look up and they've got eight hits; obviously, he could have given up a lot more runs than he did," Girardi said.

With the bases loaded in the second inning, Rasner came a few seconds away from escaping the inning with no damage at all, but Luis Castillo legged out a slow chopper up the middle, scoring Endy Chavez. Rasner had pumped his fist to signal out, but the multiple hops on the grass gave Derek Jeter little chance to whip a throw across the infield.

If that was a close call, then there was no shot when a cutter drifted back into Carlos Delgado's hot zone the next inning. Two days after he personally thrashed the Yankees with a nine-RBI game, Delgado connected on a towering drive that smacked the scoreboard in right field.

"It came back over the plate, and he did what he was supposed to do with it," Rasner said. "If it was on the corner, it might be a different story. It's a tough pitch."

The long-slumping Delgado completed the season series with 12 of his 45 RBIs having come against Yankees pitching.

"I've seen enough of him," Girardi said, chuckling softly.

With Rasner lifted after five innings, Girardi made good on his desire to get rookie David Robertson into a game quickly. Added to the roster on Saturday, the 23-year-old was touched for one run in the sixth inning, allowing two hits, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to David Wright, but he hurled a scoreless seventh and Edwar Ramirez silenced the Mets in the eighth.

It was moot, because the Yankees' fortunes didn't improve once Perez was lifted for a pinch-hitter after seven innings. Another Mets left-hander, Pedro Feliciano, came on and retired the side in order in the eighth inning, and a third southpaw, Wagner, secured the side in the ninth -- despite no longer wielding the triple-digit velocity that established him as one of baseball's top closers.

With Wagner throwing his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, Jeter led off with a single up the middle and took second base on a wild pitch to create hope. The crowd of 56,377 suddenly drew additional enthusiasm, but Rodriguez flew out loudly to Chavez in left field for the first out.

Jorge Posada grounded more quietly to shortstop for the second out, pinning Jeter at second base, and Betemit looked at a called third strike to end the game -- the Mets' fourth win in the six-game rivalry this year, just the second time since 1997 that the Yankees have not won the season Subway Series.

It could have been a different story had the Yankees somehow found the antidote for Perez's unexplained dominance. Rodriguez guessed Perez harnessed his effective wildness, and Posada said the Yankees simply hadn't seen enough of Perez so far, though he improved to 5-1 in his career against them.

As for Rasner, he was left to take whatever positives he could and wonder when the deluge of run support might start to benefit his cause.

"It's just a matter of time," Rasner said. "I'm just waiting for these guys to bust out like they have pretty much all year. [Scoring] two runs with this team, it's nothing."

Except on Sunday, when Perez made them everything for the Mets.