Yankees 3, Mets 2(Yankees lead series 3-2)

Thursday, October 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Mets are finding out what the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants learned long ago. The Yankees are hard to beat in a Subway Series.

What Derek Jeter started with a home run on the very first pitch, the bullpen finished off. The New York Yankees downed the Mets 3-2 Wednesday night and closed within one victory of their third straight World Series title.

``We're one win from where we want to be,'' Jeter said.

Game 4 marked the Yankees' third one-run victory of the Series.

A sellout crowd of 55,290 at Shea Stadium seemed much more subdued than for the Mets' 4-2 win in Game 3, possibly because of a much larger presence of Yankees rooters.

Also, the noise blaring from the center-field speakers was turned down, probably because Mets co-owner Nelson Doubleday complained about the volume.

The ballpark figures to be a lot louder — either way — on Thursday night when the Yankees try to become the first team since the 1972-74 Oakland Athletics to win three titles in a row.

Andy Pettitte will start Game 5 against the Mets' Al Leiter. Of the prior 40 teams to take a 3-1 lead in the World Series, 34 have gone on to win the championship.

The last team to blow a 3-1 deficit was St. Louis in 1985 to Kansas City.

``Well, it's someplace I've been before, but it's certainly not familiar and surefire stuff,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

If the Yankees win, they hope to have a dry clubhouse for a celebration. Severe flooding from a burst pipe soaked their locker room, including furniture that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner brought from Yankee Stadium, and forced players to conduct postgame interviews on the field.

``All of a sudden, the massage room and the weight area and the hot tub area, it was like Niagara Falls,'' winning pitcher Jeff Nelson said. ``The ceiling collapsed, there was water everywhere. This green, gunky water.''
The night certainly started out well for the Yankees.

Moved up to the leadoff spot for the first time in this Series, Jeter delivered. He became the first player to homer on the opening pitch of a World Series game since Pete Rose for Cincinnati in 1972.

``I've been known to swing at the first pitch,'' Jeter said. ``When you play games like this, you want to score early. I got a good pitch to hit, and I hit it well.

``We're playing at Shea Stadium, and even though there are a few Yankee fans here, you want to take the crowd out of the game,'' he said.

Even though Torre calls his star shortstop a ``kid,'' Jeter might soon be the owner of four Series rings at age 26.

Jeter's shot off Bobby J. Jones sent the Yankees on their way.

Said Jones: ``I wasn't expecting him to swing.''

``Putting a run on the board was the difference in the game,'' Mets manager Bobby Valentine said.

Mike Piazza's two-run homer closed the Mets to 3-2 in the third inning, and there was no more scoring as both managers made early moves to the bullpen.

Yankees starter Denny Neagle was pulled after 4 2-3 innings with a 3-2 lead, with David Cone coming in to retire Piazza on a popup to end the fifth.

Nelson pitched 1 1-3 innings, Mike Stanton struck out the only two batters he faced in the seventh and Mariano Rivera pitched two innings for his first save of the series.

Rivera was helped when right fielder Paul O'Neill made a sliding catch on Edgardo Alfonzo's liner to start the eighth. Yankees fans erupted when Rivera earned his sixth career World Series save, tying Rollie Fingers' record, by striking out Matt Franco to end the game.

Jones was lifted after five innings. Relievers Glendon Rusch, John Franco and Armando Benitez kept the Yankees from breaking away.

The Yankees scored single runs in each of the first three innings. They did it without a contribution from cleanup man Bernie Williams, who was hitless in four at-bats and dropped to 0-for-15 in the Series.

Playing on the 14th anniversary of one of their most famous games — the Bill Buckner-assisted comeback in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series — the Mets had no luck from the start.

Jeter stepped in and, with many fans still getting settled, launched a drive to deep left. Among those to cheer was one of his best friends, Seattle shortstop Alex Rodriguez, from the front row.

It was a stunning blow, and only the eighth time a World Series game had started with a home run, and the first since Rickey Henderson did it for Oakland in 1989. The hit also extended Jeter's hitting streak in World Series play to 13 games.

In the second, O'Neill tripled for the second straight day — after not hitting any since July 23, 1999 — and, following an intentional walk to Jorge Posada, scored on Scott Brosius' sacrifice fly.

New York made it 3-0 in the third. Jeter led off with a triple, giving him eight hits in this Series, and trotted home as Luis Sojo grounded out.

Mets fans did not seem daunted, probably figuring their team would have a chance to get back into the game against Neagle.

They were right.

Slumping Timo Perez opened the third with a single, and Piazza, who hit a long drive that hooked foul his first time up, lined a 75 mph changeup into the bleachers in left-center field.

Piazza's second two-run homer of the Series also marked his fourth home run of this postseason — a lot of production from the All-Star catcher who went into this October batting only .211 (12-for-57) with two homers in past postseasons.

Notes: Jeter batted leadoff with Sojo hitting second. In a shift, second baseman Jose Vizcaino was benched, with Chuck Knoblauch remaining out of the lineup. ... Jeter's early homer and triple put him in position to become the first player to hit for the cycle in the Series. ... When Todd Zeile tapped a foul down the third-base line in the fourth, Mets fans shouted ``Run!'' In Game 1, he stood at the plate when his slow trickler rolled from foul ground into fair territory. ... O'Neill got two hits and leads the Series with nine.