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Mets Have That Worldly Feeling

Game 5: Hampton's three-hitter leads New York to 7-0 victory and first NL pennant since 1986.


NEW YORK — Baseball fans along the No. 7 train's route from Times Square and Grand Central Station in Manhattan to Shea Stadium in Queens began investing heavily in tokens and MetroCards on Monday night.

That's when the New York Mets did their part to promote Baseball Armageddon--a Subway Series--with their 7-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League championship series.

The blue and orange step-children of New York, who got their color scheme from two defecting teams--the Dodgers and Giants--won their first NL pennant since 1986.

Now it's up to the Mets' Bronx brethren, the Yankees, to insure the first all-New York World Series since 1956, when the Yankees beat the then-Brooklyn Dodgers.

Met starter and free agent-to be Mike Hampton dominated the Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 55,695 at Shea, throwing a three-hitter, all singles, and not giving up a hit after the fourth inning.

Hampton, who was also voted the series most valuable player after winning Game 1 and pitching a combined 16 scoreless innings, struck out eight and walked one.

"The team needed a big game and I was able to get a cushion early," Hampton said. "I was able to settle down a little bit. The emotions were running high.

"I was pumped up for this. To beat a Cardinal team like we did tonight, it takes everybody's focus. We had to stay focused for nine innings."

Met Manager Bobby Valentine grasped for the appropriate words to describe Hampton's performance.

"He was fabulous. He was extremely competitive," Valentine said. "He did everything that anyone could hope for him to do. And I guess [it] was the biggest game of his life . . . and mine too."

It wasn't quite the same feeling for St. Louis starter Pat Hentgen, making his first start since Sept. 30. Hentgen was shelled for six runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out two.

Playing with a sense of urgency, and wanting to avoid another trip to St. Louis, the Mets jumped all over the Cardinals with a three-run outburst in the first inning. The Mets were also helped by a pair of St. Louis errors in the frame.

Timo Perez, the Dominican Republic native who is being hailed as Senor Octubre (Mr. October) in these parts for his postseason heroics, set the pace.

After singling to left, the leadoff hitter stole second and moved to third on St. Louis catcher Carlos Hernandez's throwing error. Edgardo Alfonzo singled him home before Mike Piazza drew a walk.

Robin Ventura followed with a single to score Alfonzo and first baseman Will Clark's error on a Todd Zeile grounder allowed Piazza to scamper home.

The Mets then loaded the bases with one out, but couldn't take further advantage with Mike Bordick popping to first and Hampton striking out.

It wouldn't matter as the Mets had already inflicted enough damage.

Still, New York added some insurance with a three-run fourth inning.

The omnipresent Perez got it going again with a one-out single and Piazza's two-out double put runners and second and third.

Hentgen walked Ventura to load the bases before Todd Zeile came a few feet from a grand slam. Zeile's blast off the right-center wall did, however, clear the bases and give the Mets a 6-0 lead. It also chased Hentgen.

Zeile, who began his career with St. Louis, said beating the Cardinals for the pennant made the experience that much sweeter.

"I really don't have any vindictiveness or any animosity toward the Cardinals," Zeile said. "It was the place that I started in baseball, so I still have a lot of fond memories. But it was nice to perform well in their home ballpark and then to finish them off.

"I have to admit, I don't know really why it is exactly, but it does feel a little bit better, I think, to do it against them than it would somebody else."

The Mets' final run came in the seventh, when St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa inserted his wild-and-crazy left-handed rookie, Rick Ankiel.

Ankiel walked Mike Bordick to begin the inning and, a sacrifice bunt by Hampton and two Ankiel wild pitches later, Bordick had scored.

The only flaw in the Met celebration was the swollen and bloodied left eyebrow sported by Met center fielder Jay Payton.

In the bottom of the eighth, Payton was hit by a Dave Veres pitch just above the eye. Payton, who said he will require stitches, raced to the mound as both benches and bullpens emptied. But no punches were thrown and no ejections were made.

"Mike Hampton told me he knows Dave Veres as well as anyone and said it definitely wasn't intentional," Valentine said. "I saw Tony [La Russa] on the field after the game and he swore on everything sacred it was an accident."

Veres said it was a matter of Payton diving into the pitch.

"Why would I throw at him right there?" Veres mused. "I'm not a head-hunter by any means. The count's 1-and-2, there's two outs in the bottom of the eighth. . . . It was just a two-seamer that got away."

It was also an NL pennant that the Mets took away.


Wild Thing

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