Work in Sports
BRONX, New York (Ticker) -- Another ugly incident, another masterpiece.
Roger Clemens allowed two singles over eight scoreless innings, struck out nine and nearly incited a brawl as the New York Yankees extended their record World Series winning streak to 14 games by hanging on for a 6-5 triumph over the New York Mets in Game Two of the "Subway Series."
Clemens was dominant in holding the Mets to a pair of singles by Todd Zeile as the Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the first World Series matchup between New York teams in 44 years. The 38-year-old righthander held the Seattle Mariners to one hit in his last start on October 13 and the extra rest made him nearly as unhittable tonight.
"To be successful, I knew I had to have something close to what I had in Seattle," said Clemens, who ran his postseason scoreless innings streak to 17. "And again, I was real fortunate the fastball was hopping and I was just trying to curtail it the best I could."
The five-time Cy Young Award winner allowed just one runner to reach second base, and that was on a wild pitch in the seventh inning. He struck out a batter in every inning except the fifth and walked none in improving to 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his fourth World Series start.
"Roger threw the ball really well tonight and we didn't hit him," Mets manager Bobby Valentine said. "I didn't think there was any intimidation. You think that's why we didn't get any hits? I think it was a 95 miles-per-hour fastball and a (heck) of a splitter with control."
Fourty-six teams have taken the first two games of the "Fall Classic," with 35 going on to win the championship. One of the 11 teams that rallied was the 1986 Mets and another was the 1996 Yankees, the team that began this current dynasty.
The Yankees dropped the first two games in 1996 at home but went on to win the next four. They swept the 1998 and 1999 "Fall Classics" and are poised to add the club's 26th world title, the most in professional team sports.
"Well, we have our work cut out for us," Valentine added. "No one said it was going to be easy. I think they know it is not going to be easy. We're going to make it as tough as possible for them."
Yankees manager Joe Torre quickly went to closer Mariano Rivera, who allowed a long flyout to Zeile. Benny Agbayani singled to left field and a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position. A comebacker resulted in Ventura being cut down at the plate before rookie Jay Payton lined a home run into the right field stands to slice the deficit to one run.
But as a stunned crowd sat silent, Rivera struck out Kurt Abbott to end the contest.
The two runs allowed by Rivera were twice as many as he had allowed in his previous 16 2/3 World Series innings.
"I made it a little interesting," Rivera said. "I wasn't that sharp. I was missing and they were just hitting. I never lose my concentration or my focus. Even when we were up by only one run. It's happened to me before. The difference was that I wasn't that sharp. I wasn't worried about anything. I was just trying to get (Abbott) out."
The highly anticipated matchup between Clemens and Piazza set the early tone. In his first at-bat against Clemens since the Yankees starter hit him in the head on July 8, Piazza got sawed off on a 1-2 pitch in the first inning and the broken portion of the bat bounced toward Clemens.
Clemens picked up the fragment and fired it at Piazza, who was jogging to first as the ball rolled foul. The bat skidded past the Mets' catcher and Piazza headed slowly for the mound. Both benches emptied, but order quickly was restored.
"I was just sort of confused and shocked as everybody," Piazza said. "I mean what could you do? I just concentrated on trying to finish the game. ... I was a little disoriented because obviously my bat shattered, and I had really no idea where the ball was. When he threw the bat, I basically just walked out to see what his problem was. I started asking him and he really had no response. It was bizzare, it was bizarre."
"It was an emotional reaction," said umpire crew chief Ed Montague. "I didn't think he, Clemens, threw the bat at Piazza.
There was no intent."
The incident also sparked normally mild-mannered Yankees manager Joe Torre to explode in the postgame news conference.
"First of all there is a lot of emotion in these games, obviously, between these two clubs since Roger last pitched against them. ... I think we have to ask the question: Why would he throw at him? I mean that, to me, that is a simple question.
"Let's not take the fact that what happened, happened. Let's try to analyze it. And why would he throw it at him? So he could get thrown out of the second game of the World Series? Does that make any sense to anybody. Somebody answer me! You guys ask me questions. Somebody answer my question. Why would he do it? Because he's angry with him? That's the reason? He's angry so he screws 24 other people on his team."
In his American League Championship Series start against the Mariners, Clemens knocked down Seattle superstar Alex Rodriguez and the two had words. After the game, Mariners manager Lou Piniella accused Clemens of being a headhunter and vowed payback. Clemens used the days leading up to tonight's matchup to apologize for the earlier incident with Piazza but was quick to lose his temper again.
"I was extremely emotional about that first inning," Clemens said. "Before I let go of the bat, I had no idea that Mike had ran. I told (plate umpire Charlie Reliford) that there was no intent. Again: I was fired up, emotional, grabbed the bat to sling it toward our on-deck circle where our bat boys were at.
I had no idea Mike was running. There was no intent there, that really wasn't the substance of the game."
"I think emotions are running very high in this city and (the media) has fueled it as much as anyone," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "I don't think for a moment that Roger Clemens picked up that bat with the intention of throwing it at Mike Piazza. I just don't think he did that. Piazza thought he was throwing the bat at him but I don't think he was."
Mets starter Mike Hampton (0-1) went out in the bottom of the first and put the Mets in a quick hole. After falling behind both Chuck Knoblauch and Derek Jeter, he retired both. But eight straight balls to David Justice and Bernie Williams followed. Hampton got ahead of lefthanded-hitting Tino Martinez but hung a 1-2 pitch and the Yankees' first baseman singled to left for a 1-0 lead.
Hampton continued to struggle finding the plate and fell behind Jorge Posada. He grooved a full-count pitch that Posada ripped into center field to score Williams. Hampton struck out Paul O'Neill to end the inning.
Hampton, who tossed 16 scoreless innings in the National League Championship Series and earned Most Valuable Player honors, never got it going, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings.
"I was just behind in the counts too much, in too many hitter's counts," Hampton said. "This is a good hitting team, when you get behind too much you have to come in and they capitalized."
Never a fan of cold weather, Hampton walked five, including four in the first three innings. A free agent after the season, he could have been making his last start as a Met.
The Mets nearly tied it in the second inning, when Zeile singled with one out and, after Benny Agbayani struck out, Lenny Harris lined a ball just to the left of the left-field foul pole.
Clemens recovered to strike out Harris.
Brosius pushed the lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the second when he led off with his seventh career postseason home run.
Brosius, who added a sacrifice fly in the seventh, has a career World Series batting average of .410 (16-for-39), that is the fourth highest all-time.
"I was trying to throw a cutter down and in and it caught too much of the plate," Hampton said. "We are aware he likes the ball up and in and that pitch was pretty much in his zone."
"Offensively, it's great to be a factor," Brosius said. "I got a few pitches that I was able to foul off with two strikes and I got a pitch I could handle and luckily it stayed fair."
Knoblauch apparently missed a sign and Vizcaino was thrown out trying to steal.
Knoblauch walked on the next pitch and Jeter lined a single into right field that rookie Timoniel Perez mishandled. Knoblauch tried to score but was thrown out at the plate. With Jeter at second, second baseman Edgardo made a diving play on Justice's ground ball that appeared ticketed for right field.
The Mets got Alfonzo on to open the fourth, but Clemens retired Piazza, Zeile and Robin Ventura. After the Mets went in order in the fifth, the Yankees tacked on a run after two were out in the home half. Martinez dropped a double into right-center field and Posada was intentionally walked. But O'Neill foiled the strategy by singling into the right-field corner for a 4-0 cushion.
Perez reached on Clemens' error with one out in the sixth, but Alfonzo flied harmlessly to center field. Piazza lined to left, where Justice made a sliding catch.
After the Yankees stranded a pair of runners in the sixth, the Mets got another one-out single by Zeile. But Clemens struck out Agbayani and got Harris on a squib in front of the plate.
Brosius had a sacrifice fly off Rick White in the seventh before Martinez's RBI bloop single in the eighth as the Yankees picked up a pair of crucial insurance runs.
Martinez had three hits in the game and remains the Yankees top postseason hitter, batting .382 (21-for-55).
Alfonzo's base hit in the ninth extended his hitting streak to 13 games while Agbayani's hit in the same inning pushed his streak to 12 games.