Work in Sports
Good things for Mets come from one funky hop
Updated: Wednesday October 25, 2000 7:54 AM
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have turned this thing around, bolted upright out of their sleeper car in this Subway Series with a stirring 4-2 win against the New York Yankees in a critical, pressure-filled, had-to-have-it Game 3 of the World Series.
And all it took to change sheer disaster to almost unchecked enthusiasm was a fortuitous bump in the infield. A grounder with some hop to it.
Some perfect timing.
"I knew that he was going to be diving for it," said Mets first baseman Todd Zeile of his eighth-inning dirt bunny that skipped past Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. "I didn't know if he was going to get it or not."
The Mets, down 2-0 heading into Game 3 and wanting to avoid, at all costs, the black hole of a 3-0 deficit, were locked in a breathtaking struggle with the Yankees as the Mets readied to bat in the bottom of the eighth. Yankees starter Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez had stifled them, allowing two runs in seven innings. He started off the eighth by striking out Robin Ventura -- Hernandez's 12th strikeout of the evening.
That's when Zeile stepped up. He had struck out looking his first two times up, then smashed an RBI double off Hernandez in the sixth, scoring Mike Piazza.
In the eighth, he worked the count to 3-2 against Hernandez, a pitcher who never had been beaten in the postseason.
"I was chasing pitches off the plate [the first two times up]," Zeile said. "I was trying not to, but he has such a good slider, it starts in the middle of the plate then moves off it. It's hard to lay off it."
Zeile managed to get a pitch over the plate on the 3-2 count and sent a ball screaming at Jeter. The All-Star shortstop took a dive, but the ball took a hop over his glove.
"When I was diving for it, I thought I had it," Jeter said.
Instead, it skittered into left-center field, the Mets had the winning run aboard and "El Duque" suddenly looked as if he might be beaten after all.
Mets left fielder Benny Agbayani proved it two pitches later when he doubled into the gap in left-center, scoring Zeile with the go-ahead run. Three batters later, pinch-hitter Bubba Trammell's sacrifice fly off Yankees reliever Mike Stanton provided the final run.
"As soon as that ball was hit," said Zeile of Agbayani's double, "in my mind, it was 'You have to score. When you get an opportunity like that ...'"
That was all the Mets needed in the cleanest, best-played game of this Subway Series. And now, with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Shea Stadium, the Mets are just a win away from tying the Series up.
And who knows how the ball will bounce from there?