As if the rivalry between the Yankees and the Mets needed any more fire,
head with a fastball last night at Yankee Stadium, sending the All-Star to the
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hospital with a concussion and the Mets into a frenzy of accusation.
There was no doubt that Clemens hit Piazza on purpose, Mets manager Bobby
Valentine said angrily after the game, and there was no way the Mets were going
to remember much else that happened during the historic interborough day-night
doubleheader, which the Yankees swept, winning each game by a 4-2 score.
the fifth inning gave the Yankees the runs they would need to win their fifth
straight game overall. Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the
Yankees' fourth victory in five games against the Mets this year.
But Valentine and Piazza and the rest of the Mets will remember only The
"I think it was BS," Valentine said. "I think it was terrible. I hope
someday, Clemens will pitch in a National League park and we're playing against
Clemens said: "I didn't hit Mike on purpose. I was going to pitch him
inside. That was my game plan going in. I don't know that I've pitched inside
as much as I need to this year."
The pitch in question was an 0-and-1 fastball to Piazza as he led off the
second inning. Piazza had called time at the last instant before the first
pitch, which Clemens threw for a strike. The second pitch was nowhere close to
the strike zone, but high and inside instead.
Piazza threw his left hand up to protect his face but the ball struck his
helmet right above the bill, sending him sprawling. Piazza never appeared to
lose consciousness, but he remained on the ground for a few minutes as he was
tended to by trainers.
Piazza was assisted off the field, examined by doctors at the Stadium and
eventually taken to the Hospital for Special Surgery, where the diagnosis of a
concussion was confirmed. It did not escape the Mets' notice that Clemens'
second pitch of the game nearly hit Harris in the head, or that Clemens nearly
hit Derek Bell in the chest in the fifth inning.
in the rear end as he led off the fourth. Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings
warned both teams, drawing an argument from Valentine.
"He threw at Lenny Harris' head," Valentine said. "He threw at Derek's head
and he hit Mike in the head. It seemed like three-for-one to me. We throw
inside and get a warning."
Valentine thought Clemens' beaning of Piazza was obvious and deserved swift
Piazza entered the game 7-for-12 in his career against Clemens with three
home runs, all three homers in his past seven at-bats against him. Clemens
(6-6) entered 1-4 with a 9.10 ERA in five starts against the Mets.
"We've had him for lunch every time we've played him," Valentine said.
"The first hitter, he throws at his head. The second hitter, he throws at
his head. The third hitter, he hits him in the head. I guess he was just a
little off today. I think brushback pitches are great. I didn't see that with
Lenny. I didn't see that with Derek. I didn't see that with Mike."
Clemens said the Mets simply saw him executing his game plan. "I can't
afford to miss out over [the plate]," Clemens said. "It's obvious I can't miss
out over with anything off-speed."
"I've seen him hit guys in the head," Valentine said. "I've seen him hit
Roberto Alomar in the head when he tried to bunt on him once and that was in an
American League park, too. The guy's going to the Hall of Fame. He doesn't
have that kind of bad control."
Clemens said: "I know I've been accused of it, but I don't think I've hit
that many guys." That didn't matter last night because Clemens hit Piazza, the
Mets' best player and their best hope of beating him. Even Clemens recognized
"Mike has always hit me well," Clemens said. "That wasn't the way I wanted
to get him out."
Clemens went so far as to claim he was "shaken up when the ball hit him in
the head...You don't want to hit a guy in the head."
Clemens said he was so shaken that he went to the Yankees' clubhouse after
the second inning and called the Mets' clubhouse to check on Piazza's
condition. Doctors were still examining Piazza, Clemens said, adding, "I'm glad
to know he's all right."
But Piazza was not all right. He had suffered another concussion, his
fourth since joining the Mets in May, 1998, and his second since May 31, when
Gary Sheffield hit him in the head with the follow-through of his swing in Los
Angeles. That produced a gruesome sight, with blood gushing from Piazza's head.
Last night's sight was scarier and made the Mets far angrier.
INSIDE THE GAME
YANKEES RECORD: 45-37; LAST SEASON: 50-32
METS RECORD: 47-38; LAST SEASON: 48-37
MINUS: On Chuck Knoblauch's three-run home run in the fifth, Mets leftfielder
Lenny Harris reached up at the wall and got a piece of the ball, but couldn't
bring it back in play.