Work in Sports
On the Diamond
Looking for something, Valentine juggles Mets' lineup
By John Donovan, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- Down to their last gasp in the World Series, the New York Mets have decided to shake things up. If this doesn't work ... well, if this doesn't do the trick, they won't get another chance.
Manager Bobby Valentine has benched leadoff man and right fielder Timo Perez and sore-thumbed and light-hitting shortstop Mike Bordick, all in hopes of holding off the New York Yankees, who will try to clinch their third straight World Series title in Game 5 Thursday night in Shea Stadium.
"I've played for Bobby Valentine. I know you have to come to the park every day never knowing what kind of lineup he's going to put out," said left fielder Benny Agbayani, who Valentine stuck into the leadoff spot in place of Perez. It is only the second time this year, and only the fifth time in his career, that Agbayani has batted No. 1. "You just take the same approach."
Valentine clearly is looking for something to spark a team that is hitting only .227 in the World Series. It starts at the top, where Perez is hitting .125 in the Series with only one run scored.
"I'd like to give Andy Pettitte a little different look than he got last time," said Valentine of the Yankees' starter. "He did pretty well against us."
Pettitte started Game 1 of the Series and went 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits. He did not figure in the decision in the Yankees' 12-inning, 4-3 win.
After Agbayani, the left-handed Pettitte will face second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, also hitting .125 in the Series. He remains in the second spot. Bubba Trammell, taking Perez's spot in right field, will hit sixth, and Kurt Abbott replaces Bordick (1.25) at shortstop, batting eighth.
The Mets' three losses all have been by one run, so they seem to be taking their predicament rather stoically. On the field before the game at noisy Shea, they seemed as loose as ever.
Players chatted amicably with the press. Catcher Mike Piazza warmed up by tossing balls on the side, singing along to a heavy metal tune being blasted on the stadium's sound system -- about the only thing that can drown out the roar of planes at nearby LaGuardia airport.
"We're one hit, one pitch from [not] letting these game get away from us," center fielder Jay Payton said.
"We've been playing very well," Agbayani said. "It's not like we're getting blown out or anything."
The Mets, in fact, know just what they're up against. Of the 40 teams to take a 3-1 Series lead, 85 percent of them (34) have gone on to capture the Series. Only 52.5 percent of the 3-1 leaders have won it in Game 5, but the statistics speak for themselves.
The Mets are in trouble. And the only thing they can do about it is try to shake things up.
Bottom lines . For darn near November, the weather for this World Series has been incredibly good. Temperatures in the 50s are expected for Game 5 ... The Yankees will start Jose Vizcaino at second base, and he'll lead off, finally quashing any talk of the scatter-armed Chuck Knoblauch getting playing time at Shea ... Derek Jeter, who led off Game 4 with a first-pitch home run, is back at No. 2 in the order ... Soul diva Aretha Franklin is scheduled to sing the National Anthem before Game 5 ... Likely MVPs, if the Yankees clinch tonight: right fielder Paul O'Neill (.563, two doubles and two triples), shortstop Derek Jeter (.444, two doubles, a triple and a homer) or reliever Mariano Rivera (one save and a .211 batting average against).