BOSTON — The Red Sox triumphantly returned to their beloved wall Monday, while the New York Mets, in the unaccustomed position of having their backs pressed up against it, decided to forgo a look at Fenway's Green Monster before Game 3 of the World Series.
The Mets, down two games to none in the best-of-seven series, chose rest over a light workout. They have been here before, anyway, for a charity exhibition in September.
Bob Ojeda, the left-handed Met pitcher who will face Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd tonight, has been here more times than he cares to remember. Until this season, Ojeda pitched for the Red Sox. He thought the wall had been exorcised from his past when he was traded from Boston to New York last winter.
Now, however, the wall has never loomed bigger than it will tonight. Too big, Boyd believes, for the 28-year-old Ojeda.
"I think we'll get him here," Boyd said Monday. "He's not real confident out there."
Ojeda told him as much, Boyd said, when they were still teammates last summer.
"We talked when we were running out in the outfield or playing catch," Boyd said. "Guys are not afraid to say, 'Hey, man, that wall's out there.'
"Guys like Ojeda and John Tudor didn't pitch inside that much here. I remember Ojeda saying he didn't throw sliders down and in to right-handers here.
"The wall is an intimidating thing. . . . I think it broke him down a little bit."
After Boston's 9-3 win in Game 2 Sunday night at Shea Stadium, Boyd was even bolder in his pronouncements.
"He's going to get out there and feel the wall at his back," the Red Sox right-hander said. "He's going to give up a hit or two off of it and panic."
Told of Boyd's remarks, Ojeda smiled.
"Right now, it's all spring training talk," Ojeda said. "They've won two games and that's not talk. But until we play the game, it's nothing but talk."
The talk frequently was ugly, however, when Ojeda was still with the Red Sox, even though he had a winning record in his five-plus seasons in Boston. He was 44-39 overall, 20-17 at Fenway.
The frequent public criticism Ojeda received caused him to lash out after his trade, when he referred to "media maggots." And privately, Red Sox Manager John McNamara said he had to trade two players--Ojeda and reliever Mark Clear--because they were negative influences in the clubhouse.
Monday, Ojeda, who appeared with Game 4 starter Ron Darling at a ballpark media conference, sprinkled humor through his recollections of Boston.
Asked to talk of his best game here, Ojeda said sarcastically: "Oh, God, there were so many."
And how would he describe his success here?
"Well, I got traded. Maybe that describes it best."
How about funny experiences involving balls going off the wall?
"Not on the mound," he said. "Anything that goes off the wall ain't funny."
Like Tudor--who became a 20-game winner after leaving Boston--Ojeda had the best year of his life in New York, winning 18 games for the Mets this season, the most by a Met left-hander since Jerry Koosman won 21 in 1976.
The Los Angeles-born Ojeda had the National League's second-lowest earned-run average (2.57), won Game 2 of the National League playoffs against the Houston Astros and pitched to a no-decision in the 16-inning Game 6.
"Without a doubt, it's kind of weird coming back for the World Series," Ojeda said. "I left here a year ago with a pretty good idea that I'd be traded. People were asking me, 'Where are you going to be next year?'
"You couldn't have figured on it, you couldn't plan it, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it was something special to be pitching against these guys in the Series. It's ironic."
To survive here, Ojeda said, a left-hander can't afford the luxury of walking many hitters.
"You give up a walk, then there's a bomb and a wall ball," Ojeda said. "You can't be too fine."
There's a trade-off, Ojeda said, in pitching against hitters who were once teammates.
"We know each other's personalities more than anything, and so much of this is a psych game," he said. "I've never faced them, but these are the same people I ate dinner with, went out with. I'm sure that will enter into the mind games that go on."
Mind games and wall ball. Ojeda's past becomes the Mets' World Series prologue.
"I enjoyed my time here," Ojeda said. "Part of me is still here.
"I left some blood and tears here. I feel I grew up here. It's like coming back to an old neighborhood."
That neighborhood--Kenmore Square in Boston--would like nothing more than to bully Ojeda one last time. BOB OJEDA'S PITCHING RECORD
W L SV PCT. IP ER ERA AL 44 39 1 .530 718 336 4.21 NL 18 5 0 .783 217 62 2.57 Totals 62 44 1 .585 936 398 3.83
AMERICAN LEAGUE CAREER
W L SV PCT. IP ER ERA Fenway 20 17 0 .541 356 172 4.34 Others 24 22 1 .422 362 164 4.08