- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000


NEW YORK El Duque is no longer perfect in the postseason. And the New York Yankees are no longer perfect in the Subway Series.

Benny Agbayani drove in the game-winning run and the New York Mets handed Orlando Hernandez his first postseason loss, defeating the New York Yankees 4-2 in Game 3 of the World Series last night before 55,299 at Shea Stadium.

With the victory, the Mets cut the Yankees' lead in the best-of-7 series to 2-1, halting the two-time defending champion Yankees' record World Series winning streak at 14 games. The Mets can even the series tonight at Shea, where Mets right-hander Bobby J. Jones will face Yankees left-hander Denny Neagle in Game 4.

In the past 14 years, only two teams have rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the World Series the 1986 Mets and the 1996 Yankees.

Agbayani stroked an RBI double off Hernandez in the eighth, and Bubba Trammell added an RBI sacrifice fly off reliever Mike Stanton in the same inning. Robin Ventura hit a solo home run and Todd Zeile also drove in a run for the Mets.

Paul O'Neill and David Justice each drove in a run for the Yankees.

Before the game, the gold-medal winning, Cuba-slaying U.S. Olympic baseball team was brought out for a round of applause and perhaps it was an omen for the Cuban-born Hernandez, owner of an 8-0 record in his previous nine postseason starts.

At 2-2 in the eighth, Zeile ripped a one-out single off Hernandez past diving shortstop Derek Jeter. Jay Payton then legged out an infield blooper, giving the Mets runners on the corners.

Up came Agbayani, who punctured Hernandez's invincible aura with a single swing, lining a double to the left center-field wall and scoring pinch runner Joe McEwing. Pinch hitter Trammell followed that with an RBI sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Up to that point, Hernandez, now 8-1 in the postseason for his career, was mostly masterful. Despite suffering from flu-like symptoms for the last three days, Hernandez struck out 12, giving up seven hits and three runs over 8 1/3 innings.

Reliever John Franco earned the win for the Mets, and closer Armando Benitez bounced back from his Game 1 catastrophe to earn the save. Mets starter Rick Reed (11-6) notched a no-decision, allowing six hits and two runs over six innings while striking out eight.

Hernandez worked his way out of a major jam in the sixth. Mike Piazza led off with a double, Hernandez walked Robin Ventura and Zeile hit an RBI double to left to tie the game at 2-2. Agbayani then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.

But Hernandez owner of a 1.91 ERA in his nine previous career postseason starts and a ludicrously low 1.28 ERA in two World Series appearances is nothing if not resourceful. He struck out Payton and Mike Bordick Bordick on a tension-frought 3-2 fastball and got pinch hitter Darryl Hamilton to ground out to escape the inning.

The Mets already had wasted a scoring chance in the fifth. Bordick lined a one-out single to center, then advanced to second on Reed's sacrifice bunt. Hernandez promptly walked Timo Perez, bringing up Edgardo Alfonzo, perhaps the Mets' best clutch hitter in the playoffs (10 RBI in his last 10 playoff games).

With Alfonzo taking menacing warmup swings and the heretofore sedate crowd buzzing, Hernandez dug in literally by stomping his cleats into the mound. He then struck out Alfonzo on four pitches, the last a biting 81-mph slider.

The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on an RBI triple from O'Neill, his second hit of the game. Tino Martinez opened the inning with a single, and O'Neill drove him home with a line drive that dropped in front of the wall in dead center, between right fielder Perez and center fielder Payton.

O'Neill almost had a chance to score on the play because second baseman Alfonzo's cutoff throw to third was high. The ball bounced back to third baseman Ventura, however, freezing O'Neill at third. Reed hit the next batter, Game 2 hero Scott Brosius, with an errant pitch, but retired Hernandez and Jose Vizcaino to end the inning.

Ventura led off the bottom of the fourth with a one-out, sliding double, but Hernandez retired Zeile and Agbayani on a strikeout and a fly out, respectively.

Down 1-0 in the third, the Yankees rallied behind the top of their order. Jeter stroked a two-out single to left off Reed, bringing up all-time postseason RBI leader (53 going into the game) Justice. Justice promptly added to his overstuffed October resume, ripping a double low and hard down the right-field line. Perez gloved the ball and threw home, but Jeter beat Piazza's tag to make it 1-1.

On Hernandez's first pitch of the second, Ventura punched a momentary hole in the pitcher's postseason coat of Teflon, blasting an 88-mph fastball over the wall in deep right-center to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

Hernandez was unfazed, however, striking out the next three batters. He was even better in the first, when he fanned the side in coldly efficient fashion his first eight pitches were strikes and dismissed the hard-swinging Piazza with a wicked 79-mph slider.

Reed who rushed his delivery and admitted to being nervous in his last start, an 8-2 loss to St. Louis in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series did his best to keep pace early on. He struck out six of the first eight Yankees he faced. With two outs in the second inning, O'Neill doubled to the left-field corner, but Reed whiffed Brosius to squelch the Yankees' scoring chance.

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