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Without his best stuff

Cone didn't dominate, but his line suggested he did

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Posted: Monday October 25, 1999 09:37 AM

  David Cone kept the Braves off balance, pitching with no less than a three-run lead all night. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- David Cone spoke with a tinge of sadness for weeks, as if he thinks this will be his last season with the New York Yankees.

If Sunday night turns out to be his final start, he went out in style, leaving the Braves with one large Conehead of a headache. Cone allowed just one hit in seven shutout innings as New York beat Atlanta 7-2 to take a 2-0 World Series lead.

"They can get hot in a hurry," said Cone, forever nervous. "This series is far from over."

Cone is the voice of the Yankees. Probably their heart, too. Whenever there's turmoil or trouble, he is the first one whose opinion is sought.

"I have trouble visualizing a clubhouse without David Cone," Yankees manager Joe Torre said before the game. "He means so much to this ballclub."

On The Diamond
CNN/SI baseball analyst Ozzie Smith spoke with CNN/SI anchor Vince Cellini after Game 2:

David Cone was vintage David Cone. He moved the ball around in the strike zone very well. He kept the hitters off balance. He brushed them back off the plate. He did what the Yankees do all the time -- he pitched extremely well and the Yankees played good defense. This is a very methodical New York Yankees team.

 

Cone then went out on a 48-degree night - the type of cold that's supposed to harm his game -- and pitched the best of his 18 postseason starts.

If not for Greg Myers' single up the middle on a 1-1 pitch leading off the fifth, he would have been in position to join Don Larsen as the only pitchers to throw postseason no-hitters.

"He wasn't really around the plate a lot," Myers said. "He'll throw you anything, anytime."

He kept the Braves off balance, pitching with no less than a three-run lead all night. After Atlanta got a runner on third in the first due to his throwing error, he retired Brian Jordan on a flyout to the left-field warning track.

"I think I got away with one in the first," Cone said.

Atlanta didn't get another runner in scoring position until the seventh, when he threw a called third strike past Andruw Jones with runners at the corners and two outs.

This wasn't the overpowering Cone of July 18, who struck out 10 against Montreal in becoming the oldest pitcher to throw a perfect game since Cy Young in 1904. He walked five and threw just 60 of 109 pitches for strikes.

"David kept the ball down really good tonight," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He had breaking stuff. He wasn't overpowering at all."

But it will be remembered as much as his start in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series. The Yankees were down 0-2 after losing the first two games at home, and Cone allowed one run and four hits in six innings as New York beat the Braves 5-2.

"He walks the tightrope every once in a while," Torre said, remembering how he joked with pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre during the game. "Why doesn't he just start out of the stretch? It looked like he had better rhythm out of the stretch than winding up."

Despite the big-game wins, Cone's Yankees career remains on a year-to-year basis.

After going 20-7 last season, Cone didn't know whether he'd re-sign with the Yankees until Nov. 11, when they gave him an $8 million, one-year deal that included $1.7 million in performance bonuses he wound up earning.

He understands the concern. He had an aneurysm near his right armpit in 1996 and shoulder surgery in 1997. While he went 9-4 with a 2.86 ERA in the first half of this season, he slumped to 3-5 with a 4.28 ERA in the second half, causing Torre to give him extra rest, thinking the 36-year-old right arm was tired.

"The questions are valid if you look at the MRIs and the X-rays," Cone said after the perfect game. "The MRI and the X-rays only show so much. Doctors only tell half the story."

They don't take into account the things that can't be detected by modern technology. Maybe that's why Torre doesn't seem too worried about Cone.

"Things," the manager said, "have a way of working themselves out."


 
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