Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 22 News List

Kaz Matsui spurs Mets

AMERICAN BASEBBALL The shortsop from Japan hit a pair of home runs as the Mets pounded their cross-town rivals during a slew of interleague games


Jason Varitek, right, of the Red Sox, scores on a hit by teammate Bill Mueller ahead of the tag by Braves catcher Johnny Estrada during the second inning in Atlanta, Georgia, Friday.


Kaz Matsui proved there was another shortstop in New York who could spark his team.

Matsui homered twice and drove in five runs as the New York Mets stopped Mike Mussina's eight-game winning streak, roughing up the Yankees 11-2 Friday in their highest-scoring game this season.

"This kid has had a heck of a career in Japan," Mets manager Art Howe said. "I've seen what he can do when he's going good, and tonight was just a glimpse of that."

Derek Jeter started for the Yankees, a day after a dangerous dive into the stands sent him to the hospital. The All-Star shortstop came back with a purple welt under his eye, a bandage on his stitched-up chin and a bruised shoulder, and threw himself headfirst into second base on a steal as if nothing had ever happened.

"They killed us tonight," he said.

Steve Trachsel (8-6) did not allow an earned run over seven innings in stopping the Yankees' five-game winning streak. Mussina (9-5) left for a pinch-hitter in the sixth with the Mets ahead 7-0.

Neither side attributed the rout to the Yankees' draining, 5-4 win in 13 innings over Boston on Thursday night.

"You can't use hangover as an excuse. We just didn't play well," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Said Trachsel: "Couldn't tell you what they did in their last three games."

The Mets evened the Subway Series at 2-all this year, and none of the games have been close. Richard Hidalgo homered and added an RBI double, and every Mets starter had a hit and scored.

The sellout crowd of 55,068 was already in an ornery mood after a 42-minute rain delay, during which a group of Broadway performers standing near home plate sang show tunes so loudly they got booed.

But Mets fans soon had a lot to cheer about. After Jeter made a nifty play in the hole to get Matsui for the second out in the opening inning, Mike Piazza singled just past third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

Cliff Floyd followed with a high fly that left fielder Hideki Matsui dropped on the warning track for an error that scored a run, and Hidalgo doubled for a 2-0 lead.

"It's a tough way to start a big game in a big series," Mussina said. "It was a tough night all around."

Struggling at the plate and in the field for most of the season, Kaz Matsui then took over in setting career highs for homers and RBIs in his rookie year.

"Little by little, I'm able to adjust. But this was just one game," he said through a translator. "I don't think I could say I'm on a hot streak."

Matsui launched a three-run homer in the second inning and hit a two-run shot off Bret Prinz in the sixth. The second drive prompted his first-ever curtain call, in front of fans who recently booed him at home.

Despite the hits and a couple of fine plays in the field, Matsui was not about to act like a superstar -- when he crossed the plate after his second homer, he bent down to pick up his own bat and take it back to the dugout.

Matsui said he'd seen Jeter's stellar catch, calling it an "excellent play." Matsui, however, politely declined to compare himself to Jeter.

Trachsel held the Yankees to three hits, and both runs off him were unearned. Gary Sheffield scorched a grounder through third baseman Ty Wigginton's legs for a two-base error and Rodriguez had a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Cubs 6, White Sox 2

Carlos Zambrano settled down after a shaky first -- benefiting when umpires reversed an initial call and ruled a grand slam foul -- and pitched the Cubs to a 6-2 win over the White Sox on Friday.

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