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Yankees lead 2-0 as Subway Series moves to Shea

Rocket barrels over Mets

Posted: Monday, October 23, 2000

NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza were at it again. This time about a thrown bat, not a ball.

And when the benches emptied in the very first inning, it was clear this Subway Series had a definite mean streak, fueled by a beaning that was far from forgotten.

Clemens set the tone right away and pitched eight shutout innings and the New York Yankees held off the New York Mets' five-run ninth for a 6-5 victory Sunday night and a 2-0 lead in the World Series.

The late rally and the Yankees' record 14th straight Series victory, however, did not overshadow what happened at the start. And the question remained: Did Clemens try to hit Piazza with the broken barrel of a bat, or did he just throw it in his direction?

''There was no intent,'' Clemens said repeatedly. ''I was fired up and emotional and flung the bat toward the on-deck circle where the batboy was. I had no idea that Mike was running.

''I guess it came close to him,'' he said. ''I came back into the dugout and I said I've got to get control of my emotions and calm down.''

Asked about the play, Yankees manager Joe Torre snapped, uncharacteristically: ''Let's try to analyze it: Why would he throw it at him? So he could get thrown out of the game in the second game of the World Series? Does that make any sense to anybody? Somebody answer me.''

The umpires agreed, and did not eject Clemens. But Mets reliever John Franco wasn't so sure it was innocent.

''I think he knew what he was doing all along and is coming up with excuses,'' he said.

Said Piazza: ''It was just so bizarre.''

''When he threw the bat, I basically walked out and kept asking him what his problem was,'' Piazza said. ''He really had no response.

''I was trying to figure out whether it was intentional or not. I was going to ask him. If it was, then obviously he really no had response,'' he said. ''I was more shocked and confused than anything.''

Piazza seemed to unleash all his fury in the ninth, hitting a two-run homer off reliever Jeff Nelson. Jay Payton later hit a three-run homer off Mariano Rivera to make it 6-5.

Scott Brosius homered off loser Mike Hampton and hit a sacrifice fly, and Paul O'Neill, Derek Jeter and Tino Martinez each had three hits for the Yankees.

For the second straight night, the Mets looked lost at Yankee Stadium, this time making three early errors as a sellout crowd of 56,059 hooted.

Now, when the Series shifts to Shea Stadium for Game 3 Tuesday night, the Mets must hope Rick Reed can somehow beat Orlando Hernandez, the only pitcher ever to win his first eight postseason decisions.

His cap pulled down low and his glove held high to shield all but his eyes, Clemens held the Mets to two singles.

The Rocket was clearly revved up from the start, bouncing all around the diamond to congratulate his fielders. He hardly needed a lot of help as he struck out nine and walked none.

Nelson took over to start the ninth and gave up a single to Edgardo Alfonzo, Piazza's homer high off the left-field foul pole and a single to Robin Ventura.

At that point, Rivera relieved and closed it out, though it wasn't easy. Left fielder Clay Bellinger had to reach at the top of the wall to rob Todd Zeile of a two-run homer, and after Benny Agbayani singled, Payton homered. Rivera struck out Kurt Abbott to end it.

Throwing 97 mph fastballs -- along with the barrel of a shattered bat in Piazza's path -- Clemens evened his career postseason record at 5-5 in 16 starts. This win came after his one-hit, 15-strikeout shutout over Seattle in Game 4 of the ALCS.

In that victory over the Mariners, Clemens showed he meant business by buzzing two fastballs past Alex Rodriguez in the opening inning.

But that did not nearly match the fury that erupted in the first inning against the Mets.

Ever since the Mets-Yankees matchup was set, the whole city wondered what would happen when Clemens faced Piazza for the first time since hitting him in the head with a fastball in an interleague game July 9.

Torre even talked about how, given his choice, he'd prefer not to have Clemens start a game at Shea, where he would have to bat and give Mets pitchers a chance to take revenge.

Before this game, Torre tried to play down the lingering feelings between the star players, and the local fans.

''I'd like to believe they'd rather watch the World Series than to see if Roger Clemens is going to hit him again, or if Mike is going to throw the bat at him,'' Torre said.

Fat chance.

Clemens struck out Timo Perez and Alfonzo to start the game, and that brought up Piazza.

Boos filled the ballpark as Piazza, 7-for-12 with three home runs lifetime against Clemens, slowly walked to the plate.

Then on a 1-2 count, all the tension that had been brewing suddenly blew up.

Piazza shattered his bat on a foul ball, and the barrel went skittering toward the mound. Clemens instantly reacted, grabbing the broken piece and furiously slinging it in Piazza's path as the Mets star jogged toward first base.

Piazza stopped with the bat handle in his hand, looked at Clemens and took a couple of steps in his direction. As plate umpire Charlie Reliford rushed between them, players from the dugouts and bullpens ran onto the field.

There was some pushing, but no punching, as Clemens and Piazza were kept apart and order was quickly restored.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine said he was watching the ball, rather than Clemens, and did not see what happened.

''It's my screwup if I should've protested the game or something,'' he said.

When the inning ended, Clemens walked over to Reliford and said the words ''my fault'' during a 30-second discussion.

Said Reliford: ''I don't think he threw the bat at him on purpose. He's just a competitor.''

''He just picked up the bat and winged it,'' umpire crew chief Ed Montague said. ''It was just an emotional deal that built over the months.''

Piazza grounded out on the next pitch, and that was the last sign of trouble between the two stars. Piazza went hitless in three at-bats against Clemens.

The problems for the Mets, though, were just beginning.

Hampton, the MVP of the NLCS with 16 shutout innings against St. Louis, retired the first two batters in the bottom half before walking David Justice and Bernie Williams. Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada followed with RBI singles, and the Yankees were ahead for good.

Brosius hit his seventh career postseason home run to start the second and O'Neill hit an RBI single in the fifth. Brosius added a sacrifice fly in the seventh off Rick White and Martinez singled home a run in the eighth off Dennis Cook.

Notes: Of the 46 previous teams to take a 2-0 lead in the World Series, 35 of them (76 percent) went on to win the championship. ... Jeter extended his World Series hitting streak to 11 games. ... Zeile caught some of the pregame activity with his video camera. Among those in his sights: director Spike Lee and actor Kurt Russell.



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