- The Washington Times - Monday, October 23, 2000


NEW YORK Roger Clemens turned in a dominating performance and the New York Yankees nearly wasted it.

Clemens pitched eight strong innings and the New York Yankees survived a late rally to defeat the New York Mets 6-5 in Game 2 of the World Series last night before 56,059 at Yankee Stadium.

With the victory, the Yankees took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, the first-ever World Series meeting between the the two teams and the first all-New York "Subway Series" since 1956. The Yankees also extended their World Series winning streak which dates back to 1996 to a record 14 games.

"This puts us in a good position but not a guaranteed one," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "The Mets showed you why they won. They just don't roll over and die."

Game 3 tomorrow night at Shea Stadium matches Mets right-hander Rick Reed (11-6) against Yankees playoff ace Orlando Hernandez (14-13), owner of an 8-0 career postseason record.

"We have our work cut out for us," said Mets manager Bobby Valentine. "But we're going to make it as tough as possible for them."

Scott Brosius drove in a pair of runs, one on a solo homer, while Tino Martinez chipped in with two RBI of his own. Jorge Posada and Paul O'Neill each added a RBI for the Yankees.

That almost wasn't enough, however, as the Mets roughed up the Yankees bullpen for five ninth-inning runs. Mike Piazza crushed a two-run homer in the ninth off Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson, and normally reliable Yankees closer Mariano Rivera gave up a three-run homer to Jay Payton before recording the game's final out by striking out Kurt Abbott.

"It was just a little too late for us to come back," Piazza said. "We gave them a few too many insurance runs."

Two batters prior, Rivera almost allowed a 2-run homer to Todd Zeile, whose deep shot to the left field wall was caught by a leaping Clay Bellinger.

Up to that point, Clemens (15-10) had neutered the Mets with his signature mix of fastballs, brushbacks and attitude. Coming off a 15-strikeout, one-hit masterpiece against Seattle in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Clemens again looked sharp, striking out nine and allowing just two hits in eight innings.

Clemens who threw 78 strikes in 112 pitches established himself from the game's opening pitch, fanning the Mets' first two batters and tossing a broken bat at Piazza in a bizarre sequence that emptied both dugouts.

"I was confused and shocked," Piazza said. "I was a little disoriented because my bat shattered and I had no idea where the ball was. When he threw it, I just walked out to see what his problem was. He had no response, so I was taken aback. It was bizarre."

Umpire crew chief Ed Montague elected not to eject Clemens.

"It was an emotional reaction," Montague said in a postgame statement. "I didn't think Clemens intended to throw the bat."

Mets left-handed starter Mike Hampton, by contrast, was unable to summon the stuff that made him the National League Championship Series MVP. After pitching 16 consecutive scoreless innings versus St. Louis, Hampton (17-12) gave up four runs and eight hits over six innings, striking out four while walking five.

Hampton was battered early and often. With two outs in the first inning, David Justice and Derek Jeter drew walks, bringing Martinez up to bat. Martinez promptly smacked an RBI single on a 1-1 Hampton pitch, scoring Justice and giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The Yankees scored another run on their next at-bat, as Posada stroked an RBI single up the middle and advanced to second on an errant throw by center fielder Jay Payton. With Posada on second and Martinez on third, Paul O'Neill had a chance to increase the Yankees' lead, but struck out to end the inning.

Hampton ran into more trouble in the second. Brosius, the 1998 World Series MVP, led off the inning with a 322-foot home run over the left field wall, giving the Yankees a 3-0 advantage. A pair of spectacular fielding plays by second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo including throwing out Chuck Knoblauch at home plate allowed Hampton to escape the inning, but the Yankees struck again in the fifth, as O'Neill drove home Martinez with an RBI double into the right field corner.

While Hampton struggled of his 124 pitches, only 65 were strikes Clemens cruised, retiring 12 of the Mets' first 14 batters. Indeed, the only real drama came in the first inning, when Mike Piazza took his initial at-bat.

Long-anticipated and much-discussed, the first meeting between the pair since Clemens' summer beaning of the Mets slugger came off like a big-budget Broadway musical: Entertaining, overwrought and comically theatrical, beginning with a chorus and ending with a party.

Serenaded by boos as he approached the plate, Piazza shattered his bat on a 2-0 pitch. A large chunk of the bat tumbled toward Clemens, who picked it up and inexplicably flung it in Piazza's direction.

Running toward first, Piazza took exception and began walking toward Clemens. As the pair exchanged pleasantries Clemens appeared to mouth "I thought it was the ball" to Piazza both dugouts cleared for a brief meet-and-greet on the mound.

Piazza who entered the game 7-for-12 lifetime against Clemens with three home runs had a shot at some measure of revenge in the sixth, but his line drive with a runner on first was caught by a sliding Justice.

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