NEW YORK — Start spreading the blues. They’re leaving today. So much for the Big Apple party, the home-field advantage, the friendly smell of airplane fumes. The Mets are heading for the airport trailing the Boston Red Sox, 0-2, in this World Series, and the next three games are at Fenway Park. New York, Blue York.
Where are the bats? Where is the pitching? Where is whatever it is that won 108 games this year? Where is Dwight Gooden? The Dwight Gooden? Not the guy on the mound Sunday who gave up five earned runs and lost the game, 9-3? Where is the Cy Young man?
“Was your fastball not there?” someone asked Gooden.
“It wasn’t my best,” he said, “but I’ve won games with it worse than this.”
And maybe the Mets have won games playing worse than this. Maybe they have. But not when the other team plays as well as the Red Sox did. Game 1, Saturday night, was lost, 1-0, on a ball through the second baseman’s legs. Game 2, Sunday night, which was to be the pitchers’ duel — Gooden vs. Roger Clemens — was simply battered to death. Boston had nine runs on 18 hits. Eighteen hits? A pitchers’ duel?
At the beginning, Mets fans draped themselves on every pitch. The noise was thunderous. At the beginning.
By the end, it sounded like an American Legion game, a handful of half-crocked fans left in the stands, yelling obscenities as the visitors continued to pound the home team pitchers.
Those little town blues. Time for the broom?
“Are you pressing?” someone asked Dave Johnson, the Mets’ manager. “Is your team tense?”
“I don’t think so,” Johnson said. “I’ll tell jokes if I thought it would help.”
It couldn’t hurt. Two more games like Sunday’s, and the Mets will forever be known as the greatest team to be swept out of a World Series.
Nothing went according to plan. Gooden was not good. The hits were not timely. The long balls, which left the Mets’ bats with every intention of leaving the park, seemed to get drenched with heavy air high above the Shea Stadium field, and fall helplessly into the gloves of Boston outfielders Dwight Evans and Dave Henderson.
The Boston hits, meanwhile, kept coming. Jim Rice had three hits, as did Spike Owen and Henderson.
Gooden was left in the game to bat in the fourth inning, trailing, 4-2, and in the fifth he gave up a two-run home run to Evans and it was all but over.
“Are you surprised at beating them twice?” Evans was asked.
“I’m not surprised,” he said. “Last night, someone asked me if we’d be happy with a split. I said, ‘No way.’ We’re going for it.”
“Are you surprised at winning two here?” Boston manager John McNamara was asked.
“Hell no, I’m not surprised,” he said. “People are going to find out we have a good ball club.”
“What kind of chicken did you eat tonight?” someone asked Wade Boggs, who made several brilliant defensive plays at third base Sunday night.
“Fried chicken,” he said. “I’m going with it on Tuesday, too.”
This is what it had come to in New York. They were in the bowels of Shea Stadium asking Wade Boggs about his chicken. No time for slumps
Whatever the Mets’ problem is, they now have a day to fix it before the Boston barrage begins. Their pitching rotation was thrown into a tizzy after Sunday night. Ron Darling, who pitched Game 1, will now apparently pitch Game 4, with Gooden coming back for Game 5.
The season may have been kind to the Mets, but the World Series is, at most, seven games long. You can’t come in late and expect to make it.
Is it that Boston was not given the credit it deserved? Or New York was given too much? Does it matter? The series is 2-0 now, thanks to the tunes of the Boston hit parade. The Mets are in trouble.
Start spreading the blues. They’re leaving today. And if they don’t wake up quickly, they’re not coming back until April. CUTLINE Dwight Gooden, in the fifth inning.