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SUBWAY SERIES

Zeile Steps Into the Spotlight

Game 3: Frustrated former Dodger delivers by driving in tying run and scoring go-ahead run.

October 25, 2000|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — Todd Zeile figured the New York Mets' shaky situation would improve, but time and the New York Yankees presented obstacles.

The Yankees took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven World Series, leaving the Mets frustrated after a bad Bronx experience.

The Subway Series shifted Tuesday night to Shea Stadium, and Zeile and his teammates became kings of Queens again with a 4-2 victory in Game 3 before 55,299.

The first baseman and former Dodger provided two timely hits, driving in the tying run with a double in the sixth inning and getting a single in the eighth before scoring the go-ahead run.

Zeile and the Mets got the boost they needed, putting a hurdle before the Yankees for a change.

"We all felt that things would be different once we got back to Shea because of how we've played here this season," said Zeile of the Mets, whose 55-26 home record tied the majors' top mark. "When we've been tied or had a lead in the late innings here, good things have usually happened.

"It makes a big difference, just like it makes a big difference for the Yankees playing at Yankee Stadium. They have that sense of confidence playing in their ballpark, and we have that sense of confidence here. After the first two games, we needed the lift we got from coming back home, and we definitely got that tonight."

Zeile was one of the most disappointed Mets after watching the Yankees make the big plays en route to an early series lead.

In Game 1, Zeile missed a home run by inches when the ball hit the top of the padded wall in left and bounced back into play, and Yankee left fielder Clay Bellinger robbed Zeile of a homer in the ninth inning of Game 2.

"You obviously would rather not have those types of things happen," said Zeile, who makes his off-season home in Thousand Oaks. "But just like we would have rather not been down 0-2, you can't dwell on bad luck or things like that."

His luck was better at Shea.

With Mike Piazza on second in the sixth, Zeile doubled to left-center to tie the score, 2-2. After Zeile singled with one out in the eighth, Benny Agbayani doubled to put the Mets ahead for good.

"There was a lot of talk about the Yankees getting all the breaks in the first two games, and that maybe we just weren't as lucky," Zeile said. "But like we showed tonight, a lot of that comes down to getting timely hits, pitching well and making the plays when you have to make them."

Piazza said Zeile has been a steadying force in his first season with the Mets, doing whatever it takes to contribute.

"He's been great for us," said Piazza, who helped persuade his friend to sign with the Mets in the offseason. "He's gotten a lot of big hits for us, a lot of clutch hits, and he's just one of those guys you know you can always count on."

Met reliever John Franco agreed.

"That's happened a lot this year," Franco said, alluding to Zeile's consistent performance. "He's come through a lot when we've needed someone to step up, and that's what you need when you're trying to win [a World Series] title."

That's why General Manager Steve Phillips wanted Zeile.

"He made the choice to come play here when he could have gone other places," Phillips said. "He changed positions and came to a town that's very demanding because this is where he wanted to be. He's proven he belongs here."

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