Work in Sports
Reed, Benitez key Mets' pitching resurgence
Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2000 8:49 AM
By Stephen Cannella, Sports Illustrated
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza had a simple explanation for what happened in Game 3 Tuesday night.
"That guy is good, that's all there is to it," he said when asked if there was a reason why the Mets and Yankees combined for 25 strikeouts -- including 11 of the first 12 outs -- in the Mets' 4-2 win.
He was referring to Yankees' starter Orlando Hernandez, who whiffed 12 in his eight innnings of work, then quickly remembered that eight of those strikeouts had been rung up by his team's starter, Rick Reed.
"And our guy, too," Piazza said of Reed. "They were both good tonight. It's all about pitching and both teams have had good pitching all year. That's why we're who we are and they're who they are."
Reed was excellent in Game 3, as were relievers John Franco, who got the win after pitching a scoreless inning, and closer Armando Benitez, who nailed down the victory in the ninth. But there was more to it than simple effectiveness, especially for Reed and Benitez.
Both were coming off horrendous performances in their previous outings. In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cardinals, Reed lasted just 3 1/3 innings after giving up eight hits and five runs.
Benitez, of course, blew a 3-2 ninth inning lead in Game 1 of this series, setting the stage for the Yankees' victory in the 12th inning. The Mets' win Tuesday night wasn't just about them clawing back into the series. It was a night of redemption for two key members of their pitching staff, the strength of the team.
Perhaps Benitez's rebound wasn't surprising. He's dealt with several postseason meltdowns in his career, including in Game 2 of the Division Series against the Giants, when he allowed a game-tying, three-run homer to J.T. Snow.
"I feel good because I had the chance tonight and did my job," said Benitez, adding that he hadn't feel any extra nervousness or pressure in the wake of his Game 1 blowup. "Was I excited? I don't know. After the game is the time to be excited. When I'm out there, I know I'm just in to do my job."
Reed took the mound with a similar sense of calm on Tuesday, a mind-set strikingly different from the one he had in his last start. He admitted after his start against the Cardinals that he felt nervous and uncomfortable on the mound. Fellow starter Al Leiter noticed from the dugout and took Reed aside for a pep talk a few days ago.
"He said, 'You're right, I didn't feel comfortable out there,'" Leiter said after Game 3. "He really pitched well tonight, more relaxed, more aggressive than he was before."
"I had everything working for me," Reed said. "I was relaxed, and that was the biggest thing."
Working on seven days rest also gave him a better fastball than usual. That extra zip, plus a calm and confident demeanor, produced an aggressive pitching style. Reed struck out six of the first nine hitters he faced, blowing several of them away with high fastballs. He whiffed eight in six innings of work and allowed just two runs.
"I did my job," Reed said. "I kept us close against El Duque."
He and Benitez must do their jobs if the Mets are to win this series. Benitez surely will be called on to save any other Mets wins. Reed would get the call if the series goes to a seventh game.
"I went out there tonight with the mind-set that I was just going to relax," Reed said.
He might need to do the same in Game 7.