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Benitez is back for Mets
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
NEW YORK -- A lot of things went well for the Mets in Game 3, but the most important thing was the pitching of Armando Benitez.
With a 4-2 lead in the ninth inning, he had the extra run to work with. He made some great pitches to retire Derek Jeter and David Justice with Chuck Knoblauch on base to end the game. Even though Benitez didn't mean to throw the final pitch to Jeter the way he threw it, it didn't matter because he got out of the inning. Benitez, who was coming off his ninth-inning struggles in Game 1, needed that kind of outcome. He will continue to be a huge factor in the series.
Rick Reed set a Shea Stadium tone for the Mets right from the beginning of Game 3. He was getting quick strikeouts and running the ball over the corners. I don't think any Mets player was surprised by his performance, though. Reed is a pitcher in whom they have great trust. The Mets always think they have a solid big three of Al Leiter, Mike Hampton and Reed in their rotation, and it has turned out that way. They have a shot to win one in the bullpen in Game 4, and then go back to Leiter and Hampton.
The Mets' confidence is simply amazing. It goes back to the NLCS last year when they were down 3-0 to Atlanta and came back to nearly win the series. The Mets have had their personality determined more by all the games they lost. And rather than be defined by thoses losses, they grew from the defeats. Sometimes the Mets win from losing; that's partially attributed to their team personality.
To Yankees, the loss was just one game, although I sense they liked to getting the 14-game World Series streak out of the way. Their biggest problem is that Bernie Williams is killing them. When Dennis Cook relieved Reed in the seventh inning, he threw three times to first base to keep Jeter close and then hit Justice with his first pitch. That's a situation in which the Yankees' cleanup hitter, and their highest-paid everyday player, has to produce, and he's not.
If Williams doesn't hit, the Mets win the series. In the middle of the order, he's the player who will determine whether or not they win. He's capable of getting hot, but he is 0-for-11 in the Series and has only four RBI in 14 postseason games. What's the story?
Meanwhile, the bottom of the Mets order is starting to produce. Benny Agbayani had the big double, but Jay Payton and Mike Bordick each had a hit and worked El Duque for some great at-bats, even though they both struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth. Payton saw 22 pitches in his four at-bats.
Todd Zeile and Agbayani are hot, so now the Mets can go two through six in the order and be respectable. People talk about them only having two or three good hitters in their lineup, but suddenly the Mets' lineup is stretched out pretty well with good hitters. I like the shape the Mets are in.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter made a great point after the Game 3. When teams get into a National League park, you see in the difference in how they are structured. The Mets have different people who can play three positions. But Yankees manager Joe Torre has Jose Canseco, Chuck Knoblauch and Glenallen Hill -- three DHs.
Valentine, however, has interchangeable parts. When the game was over Tuesday, he still had a right-hander and a left-hander on the bench. The difference between a National League roster and an American League roster really shows up in the NL park. The game is tougher for the AL team in the NL park than it is for the NL team in the AL park.
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