Work in Sports
What a relief
Yankees' bullpen shuts down Mets in Game 4
Updated: Thursday October 26, 2000 1:06 AM
Each time, the Yankees relief corps responded with airtight pitching.
Protecting a one-run lead, Yankees relievers were close to perfect Wednesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Mets that extended their World Series lead to 3-1.
They can win a 26th championship Thursday night, and if they do, a reliever will almost certainly be involved.
Torre started Denny Neagle in Game 4 but took note when Mike Piazza crushed a two-run homer against the left-hander. The next time Piazza came to the plate with two out and nobody on base in the fifth inning, Torre came out to get Neagle.
"Piazza is one of the few players who is in scoring position when he gets in the batter's box," Torre said. "Neagle didn't know but I made up my mind Coney was going to face Piazza."
The starter seemed startled and annoyed at being lifted one out too early to get the victory. But Torre wasn't fooling around on this night after going a bit too long with Orlando Hernandez the night before in the Mets' victory.
In the bullpen, Cone had been told to get ready for Piazza.
"I wasn't sure I'd face him," Cone said. "I was as surprised as Denny when Joe made the change."
On the mound, Neagle seemed stunned.
"I'm a victim of not having done it long enough for Joe," he said. "When he reached for the ball, I was shocked."
As Cone trotted in from the left field bullpen, he looked around to familiarize himself with Shea Stadium. He had not pitched in the home of the Mets since they traded him away in 1992 and wondered about the fans' reaction.
"It was a pretty firm 'boo.' I know where I stand now," he said. Cone had made just one relief appearance in a dreadful 4-14 season. But he retired Piazza on a pop fly.
When the Yankees threatened in the sixth, Torre pulled Cone for a pinch hitter. That brought on Nelson, who was shelled in Game 2. This time, he allowed a leadoff single to Todd Zeile in the sixth, but he escaped any trouble when he turned a line drive back at him into an inning-ending double play.
When Nelson walked pinch-hitter Lenny Harris with one out in the seventh, Torre went to Mike Stanton, who had four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings in the Series. He added two more strikeouts, getting pinch-hitters Bubba Trammell and Kurt Abbott.
"There's no secret when I come at a hitter," Stanton said. "I've got to make quality pitches. Experience has benefitted us because we've been able to get into the moment."
That left the last two innings to Torre's closer, Rivera, and he breezed through them to get his 17th straight postseason save. One of the hitters he retired in the ninth was Jay Payton, who tagged him for a three-run homer in the Series opener.
"He had a live arm tonight," Payton said. "We were surprised to see Neagle get taken out as early as he did. It was a great move by Joe Torre. Their bullpen did a great job."
From the time Neagle left the game, the Yankees used four relievers and the Mets managed two singles.
"We needed every single bit of contribution that we got from every pitcher out there," Torre said.
It was a bullpen at its best.