Mets trying to focus on Series

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Evan Grant / The Dallas Morning News

NEW YORK – The New York Mets had enough to worry about Monday morning.

They are already down, 2-0, to the New York Yankees in the World Series. They are facing the postseason's indomitable force, Orlando Hernandez, in Game 3 on Tuesday.

To take home their first world championship since 1986, they need to win four of five possible games against a team that has won 14 straight in the World Series.

Think they needed the Mike Piazza vs. Roger Clemens battle to linger?

As they say in New York: Fuhgedaboutit.

"It's hard to turn the other cheek," said Game 3 starter Rick Reed, who was certain Clemens threw a portion of a broken bat at Piazza in the first inning of Game 2 on Sunday. "I guess to get back, we can win the World Series. That would be the payback – at least for now."

The most famous foul ball in World Series history simply would not go away on Monday. No longer were the Mets questioned about whether Clemens intentionally flung the barrel of a sawed-off bat at Piazza after the latter dribbled a ball foul a night earlier. On Monday, the Mets were asked over and over a New York kind of question: What are they going to do about it?

The Mets, especially Piazza, had long been stewing over Clemens' July 8 beaning of Piazza, but had tempered their emotions. When Piazza shattered his bat in the first inning of Game 2, the emotions boiled over.

Clemens fielded the barrel on two hops. He flung it sidearm toward the first-base line, which just so happened to be where Piazza was running. The bat missed Piazza by a good two feet, but the benches emptied.

Rhetoric – laced with profanities – was exchanged. Clemens, however, remained in the game and smothered the Mets, allowing two hits in eight innings. Despite a ninth-inning meltdown by the bullpen, the Yankees hung on to win, 6-5, for a two-game lead in the best-of-7 series.

Which brought us to Monday's aftermath. While baseball's disciplinarian, Frank Robinson, reviewed tapes of the incident amid questions over whether Clemens should be suspended, the Mets found themselves in the odd position of defending themselves for not retaliating against Clemens or the Yankees.

Reed uttered the Mets' basic response: They have bigger worries than getting mad. They have to get even. In the Series, that is.

"Whatever you've got to use to motivate yourself, sometimes it's personal, you do it," Piazza said. "To me, I want to win a World Series game and a World Series. That looks tough right now. But we've battled back before. So we've got to fight back and hopefully beat these guys."

Said Todd Zeile: "It makes no sense to go head-hunting on some other player. If retaliation towards another player was warranted, it should have happened right after the first incident, but not now. Now, we've got games to win.

"And people think this [incident] is going to give us extra motivation. Well, let me tell you something: If we need extra motivation to play Game 3 of the World Series, then we are in the wrong business. We need to go out and do what we can and realize that if we win, it's going to be a little sweeter to say we came back and did it."

To do that, the Mets must topple "El Duque" Hernandez. He is 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA in 10 postseason appearances.