Game 2

METS LOOKING FOR SOME MAGIC

No matter which way you cut it, any team trailing a World Series two games to none has dug itself a pretty big hole. But the untrained eye might believe the Mets are already buried in the face of a 2-0 deficit against the two-time defending champion Yankees. After all, in order to win the World Series, the Mets will have to win four of the next five games against a Yankees club which hasn't lost a single World Series game since 1996.

But the seemingly long odds don't faze the Mets, who appeared confident and upbeat during Monday's workout day at Shea Stadium. The Mets might not have the Yankees right where they want them--hey, no one wants to be down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series--but no team in baseball is better prepared to mount a historic comeback than these Mets. No matter which way you cut it, any team trailing a World Series two games to none has dug itself a pretty big hole. But the untrained eye might believe the Mets are already buried in the face of a 2-0 deficit against the two-time defending champion Yankees. After all, in order to win the World Series, the Mets will have to win four of the next five games against a Yankees club which hasn't lost a single World Series game since 1996.

"I think if we can just get that one win under our belt, I think we're going to get that little magical kind of mystique back that we had against the Cardinals," says reliever Turk Wendell, the king optimist in a clubhouse full of upbeat thinkers. "We had something about us against the Cardinals that [made them believe] we're not gonna lose, we're kind of the big kahunas now."

The past two seasons have been full of dramatic Mets comebacks. This year, of course, the Mets scored 10 eighth inning runs on June 30 against the Braves to overcome a seven-run deficit and beat the Braves, 11-8. Last year, the Mets endured losing streaks of eight and seven games, respectively, but recovered from the first to go 40-15 over their next 55 games and bounced back from the second to win their final four regular season games and the NL wild card.

And how many Mets obits were written when they fell behind the Braves 3-0 in last year's NLCS? The Mets, of course, came back to win Games Four and Five and were twice within three outs of winning Game Six and forcing a Game Seven.

The Mets scored just five runs in those three games against the Braves last year, but they've already scored eight runs in two games against the Yankees--including five Sunday night in the ninth inning to turn a lopsided six-run game into a nail-biting 6-5 defeat.

What the Mets accomplished in the ninth inning of Game Two was unprecedented--in their previous 36 World Series appearances, the Yankees had NEVER given up more than four runs in the ninth inning of any game. In addition, the two runs the Mets scored against All-World closer Mariano Rivera represented the same number of runs Rivera had given up in his entire postseason career entering this year's ALCS, a span which covered 52.1 innings.

Asked if the Mets could gain momentum from Sunday night's ninth inning, Mike Piazza says "You score those runs against two of the toughest relievers in baseball [Rivera and fellow righty Jeff Nelson], I think it goes without saying [the Mets could gain some momentum]."

"I think that was huge for us," Wendell says. "When I came in [to the locker room], I said 'Now you guys know we can do it. Let's not lose sight of that.'"

And while it's not good for the soul to wonder "What if?," let's also not lose sight of the fact the Mets might very well be up 2-0 in this series if a handful of well-hit balls had just traveled a few inches farther. There was Todd Zeile's double off the top of the left field wall in the sixth inning of a scoreless Game One which could have gone for a two-run homer but instead netted the Mets nothing when Timo Perez was thrown out at home plate on the play.

There was Lenny Harris' foul ball just to the left of the foul pole in left field in the second inning of Game Two. Had he homered there, the Mets would have tied the game 2-2. In the ninth, Zeile's deep fly out to--you guessed it--left field was caught by Clay Bellinger at the top of the wall. Had Zeile homered there, the Mets would have closed the gap to 6-4 with none out.

"With a little good fortune, it could have been a different series," Piazza says. "Obviously, it's not. So that's the most frustrating thing of all."

"We should have won the first game, to be honest about it," Wendell says. "We could have won last night too, but we didn't. We can't dwell on any of that stuff...you can't change any of that stuff." The only stuff the Mets can control begins tonight in Game Three. Hernandez is one of the greatest postseason pitchers ever (he's won all eight of his decisions and the Yankees are 10-0 in his starts) but the Mets have been renowned this postseason for jumping on the opposing pitcher quickly during home games. The Mets scored a total of 10 first inning runs in their first five games at Shea: Two runs in Game Four of the NLDS, one run in Game Three of the NLCS, four runs in Game Four of the NLCS and three runs in Game Five of the NLCS.

And don't forget this unique factoid: In three previous World Series Game Threes, the Mets have hit three leadoff homers. Timo Perez, this means you.

As for the Mets' starting pitcher, Rick Reed isn't exactly chopped liver. He's playoff-tested and had perhaps the best start of his life in Game Three of last year's NLCS, when Reed threw 55 of his first 70 pitches for strikes and allowed just one hit in the first seven innings.

"I've said it before: Reeder, in my eyes, is definitely a big-game pitcher," Wendell says. "He's the guy that you want in the foxhole if you're in a battle. He's the guy I'd want next to me."

And let's not forget this: Numerous Mets attended last night's game between the Jets and the Dolphins in which the Jets trailed by 23 points in the fourth quarter but pulled off the biggest comeback in team history to beat Miami in overtime, 40-37. ABC's Al Michaels compared the Jets to the Miracle Mets, and a dramatic comeback by the Mets in this World Series wouldn't be the first time the fates of the former co-tenants at Shea were intertwined. Remember, the Mets' miracle championship in 1969 occurred nine months after the Jets' miracle Super Bowl win.

The Mets might be down 2-0 in this World Series, but they aren't out. Games Six and Seven are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Yankee Stadium, and the Mets aren't planning to be anywhere else.