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El Duque looks to pitch Yanks to 3-0 lead

Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2000

NEW YORK -- After an unbeaten start, the New York Yankees throw an unbeaten starter at the New York Mets.

Orlando Hernandez, who's never lost a postseason start, goes to the mound in Tuesday night's Game 3 of the World Series against Rick Reed, the loser in the only game the Mets dropped in the NL championship series against St. Louis.

The Yankees lead the Subway Series 2-0.

With a win against Oakland in the division series and two more against Seattle in the American League championship series, El Duque is 8-0 in the postseason and remains a source of amazement to manager Joe Torre.

''He's been remarkable,'' Torre said on Monday after the Yankees worked out at Shea Stadium. ''The last outing wasn't one of his best, but he persevered and hung tough until we were able to win the ballgame against Seattle''

That was the AL pennant clincher, when the Mariners opened an early 4-0 lead but the Yankees rallied for the victory. It continued a pattern for a pitcher who never loses in October.

''I go back to that first game he pitched against Cleveland in '98 (in the ALCS),'' Torre said. ''We were down 2-1. He hadn't pitched in 16 days.''

Hernandez beat the Indians 4-0 that day, throwing seven shutout innings in his first postseason start. It set the tone for the Cuban-born right-hander with the corkscrew windup.

''As far as the focus and the determination, it's been pretty remarkable,'' Torre continued. ''You can't teach this. Certain people are born with that desire and need to be in the middle of everything when it's important. It's remarkable. There's something inside there that drives him and I'm glad he's on my side.''

Hernandez has no explanation for his postseason success.

''I try to approach every game the same,'' he said through an interpreter. ''The object of the game is to win, and I want to go out and win, prepare myself to win. If it's in Cuba, in a World Series or in a national competition, the object is always to win and that's what I try to do.''

Hernandez was 12-13 during the regular season, when he struggled with elbow problems and back spasms.

''I was injured most of the regular season,'' he said. ''If I had not prepared myself during the regular season for the postseason, then I wouldn't be able to do my job in the postseason.''

Mets manager Bobby Valentine said his team was ready for the challenge El Duque poses.

''We watched some film early this morning,'' he said. ''We've faced him before. There was some talk about that around the batting cage on how his ball moves. He's never been beaten in the postseason. We understand all those things. We're going to come out firing.''

Valentine was asked about the variety of release points in Hernandez's delivery but said he thought El Duque did not have that many, just a variety of pitches.

''That's his opinion,'' Hernandez said. ''I respect it. I never agree with anyone else. I respect their opinion and their right to it.''

Reed was 11-5 in the regular season as the Mets' No. 3 starter. But he was hit hard in a no-decision against San Francisco in the division playoff and knocked out early in his start against St. Louis in the NLCS.

He said El Duque's postseason success was not a concern.

''I've got to prepare for the Yankees' lineup,'' he said. ''I have to worry about their lineup. I can't worry about his record in the postseason and what he's done. I've got to keep my team in the game.''

Reed said he struggled with his mechanics and his nerves in the Game 3 start against the Cardinals, when he was knocked out on the fourth inning.

''I was nervous. No doubt about it,'' he said. ''I was trying to be too fine, too perfect instead of making my pitches, saying 'Here it is, let's see what happens.'

''I've got to pitch my game, go out and be relaxed. I've got to be more aggressive down in the strike zone. I've got to back off, take a deep breath and relax. I've got to have some fun with it. It may never happen again.''

HEAD:Clemens-Piazza flareup talk of town

BYLINE1:By BEN WALKER

BYLINE2:AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK -- Once Mike Piazza called Roger Clemens ''unstable'' and baseball began an investigation, it was clear where this day was headed.

So on a travel day that required no travel, there was only one topic at Shea Stadium and both teams agreed: The image of Clemens throwing the jagged barrel of Piazza's bat was sure to be the lasting image of this World Series.

''This is definitely going to be torture if you have to watch that time and time again,'' New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said Monday.

''If the Mets win, I think they're going to use that as a motivation for coming back and beating us. ... And if we win, it's still going to be a major part of it,'' he said.

Said Piazza: ''This is a situation that has taken prominence over the ballgame, which is unfortunate. But that's the way it is.''

The Yankees lead 2-0 in the Subway Series, with Game 3 Tuesday night. Orlando Hernandez, 8-0 lifetime in the postseason, pitches against the Mets' Rick Reed.

Torre made two lineup announcements, both which normally would attract a lot of attention.

With no DH to work with, he said Jose Vizcaino would start at second base in Game 3, leaving Chuck Knoblauch on the bench. Torre also said Denny Neagle would pitch Game 4, rather than David Cone.

Yet on this afternoon, as Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave Clemens a hearty pat on the back during workouts, those moves caused little stir.

Instead, all the talk concerned Clemens throwing a chunk of Piazza's shattered bat within two feet of the Mets star in the first inning, causing the benches to empty in Sunday night's 6-5 win by the Yankees.

Clemens claimed the whole thing was accidental, and that he was merely being emotional.

''This is the World Series, it shouldn't overshadow what we're trying to do,'' Clemens said. ''I've done that before -- I've thrown the bat at the batboy.''

''There's no intent there,'' he repeated, for about the hundredth time. ''I wish it had been Mike Bordick's bat. The only thing strange was that it was Mike (Piazza).''

The Mets were still seething at Clemens, having seen him bean Piazza on July 8 at Yankee Stadium.

Mets DH Lenny Harris said he spent the rest of Sunday night's game ''trying to hit a ball right off his forehead.''

A day later, Piazza seemed uncertain what to think.

''He seemed extremely apologetic and unsure and confused and unstable,'' he said. ''Now that I have had time to think about it, I do believe his actions should be looked at by Frank Robinson or whoever is in charge of conduct.''

Fact is, Robinson, baseball's dean of discipline, had already started to look into the matter. Clemens could face a fine, although many seemed to think a suspension was highly unlikely.

Torre said he had no problem with baseball investigating.

''I welcome that. I mean, I do. I talked to Frank Robinson this morning,'' he said. ''He asked me what I thought and what I saw and what I felt. I think to be thorough about it, that's probably the right thing.''

Torre sharply backed Clemens' version late Sunday night that the incident was not intentional. The manager said he needed his wife to calm him down later at dinner.

Given a day to think about it, Torre did not change his stance, though he said he could see why the Mets were angry.

''I can understand their comments,'' he said. ''Understand that Roger is wearing our uniform, and we're going to go overboard to back him, not necessarily agreeing with everything that happens, OK?

''I don't condone what he did. But again, I still hold to the fact that he didn't throw it at him, OK?'' he said.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine did not say Clemens deliberately threw the bat at Piazza. But asked whether he agreed with Piazza that baseball should look into the altercation, he responded, ''Yeah, I support my catcher, totally.''

No surprise, with the Clemens-Piazza flareup becoming the talk of the town, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani even addressed the issue. Being a lifelong Yankees fan, he reaction was predictable.

''I can't imagine he would throw at him, otherwise, he would ... get himself thrown out of one of the most important games of his career,'' Giuliani said.



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