NEW YORK -- Hoping to defuse the most explosive subplot of the Subway Series, Yankees Manager Joe Torre has done the expected and decided that Roger Clemens will not pitch at Shea Stadium, where he would have batted and been subject to direct retaliation for his beaning of Mike Piazza in July.
Following Tuesday's pennant-clinching victory over the Mariners, Torre declined to reveal the rotation he and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre have formulated and still had not made an announcement Wednesday. But a person with knowledge of the plans confirmed that Torre will start Andy Pettitte in Games 1 and 5, Clemens in Games 2 and 6 and Orlando Hernandez in Games 3 and 7.
Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 are scheduled for Yankee Stadium, where the DH rule will be in effect; under National League rules, there will be no DH during the three games scheduled for Shea.
Torre and Stottlemyre have not finalized their decision for Game 4 and are apparently grappling with whether to start Denny Neagle or David Cone. Neagle has extensive experience against the Mets but was terrible down the stretch and followed up a decent outing in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Mariners with a mediocre one in Game 5. Cone struggled mightily all season but looked sharp in his one inning against the Mariners that same game, apparently convincing Torre he is fully recovered from his dislocated left shoulder, an injury which affected his delivery.
Starting Cone, who is inextricably linked to both the Mets and Yankees, would make for great theater and it might even supply him with the adrenaline necessary to produce a great outing in what could be the final start of an excellent career.
But there is almost no chance such a sentimental moment will not be juxtaposed with what could easily have become an ugly one: a beanball war starting with Clemens at the plate. Barring a weather-related postponement of Game 4, which would allow Torre to skip Neagle or Cone and use his first three starters on regular rest, Clemens will not bat during the Subway Series.
Clemens claimed that he was not worried about batting at Shea. Either way, Clemens is surely glad he will not have to pitch at Shea, something of a personal horror house for him.
In four career starts at Shea, including the infamous game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Clemens is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA. Clemens had a lead when he came out of Game 6 in the seventh inning.
After Mookie Wilson's grounder went through Bill Buckner's legs and the Red Sox had lost, Manager John McNamara claimed that Clemens asked out of the game. When Clemens learned what McNamara said, he grew incensed and had to be restrained from charging into the manager's office. Clemens has since denied that he asked out, accusing McNamara of lying.
As a member of the Blue Jays in 1997, Clemens carried an 11-game winning streak into Shea Stadium, only to get pounded by a Mets team that had been awful for the prior six years but surprisingly remained in the wild card race until the final week of the season.
The Mets have gotten increasingly better each year and continued to beat up on Clemens, even during their down moments. They ended Clemens' AL-record 20-game winning streak on June 6 last year, when Al Leiter beat him easily to end the Mets' eight-game losing streak. Leiter, who will likely oppose him in Game 2, beat him again in July last season and in June this year at Yankee Stadium.
Overall, Clemens is 2-4 with a 6.65 ERA in eight career starts against the Mets, worse numbers than his statistics at Shea. But Clemens' best start against the Mets came in that beanball game at Yankee Stadium, where he was 8-4 this year. He was 5-4 on the road.
Those numbers figured heavily into the decision Torre and Stottlemyre made, as well as Torre's belief that Game 3 is the key game in any series. Because it will be in hostile Shea Stadium, the Yankees consider Hernandez, who is the first pitcher in baseball history to be 8-0 in the postseason, the perfect man to start the game.
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