October 22, 2000: Clemens and Piazza clash as Yankees win Game Two
After losing in 12 innings to the New York Yankees in the first game of the 2000 World Series, the longest game in postseason baseball history up to that time at 4 hours and 51 minutes,1 the New York Mets were anxious to redeem themselves in Game Two.2 The Mets had several close calls that did not go their way in the first game and were hoping to even the Series as the two teams met again in the first Subway Series since 1956.
Roger Clemens was on the mound for the Yankees. There was excitement in the air because this was the first time Clemens had faced the Mets since July 8 when he hit Mike Piazza with a pitch in the first inning of a game between the crosstown rivals. At that time, there was a lot of debate about whether Clemens had hit Piazza on purpose.3 Piazza missed several games when he suffered a concussion as a result of the beaning.
The first inning of Game Two began with Clemens immediately showing why he had won five Cy Young Awards. The first two Mets batters, Timo Perez and Edgardo Alfonzo, struck out swinging at Clemens fastballs. The next batter was Piazza. Clemens’ first two pitches to Piazza were called strikes. Then he threw a ball. Piazza swung at the fourth pitch. It was inside and Piazza’s bat splintered as he made contact. Piazza begun to run toward first base as the ball rolled foul.
Meanwhile, the barrel of Piazza's splintered bat landed near Clemens' feet. The pitcher picked it up and hurled it toward the first-base line. The bat flew across Piazza's path as he ran out his foul ball. A foot to the right and the sharp edges of the bat would have hit Piazza in the leg.4 Piazza stopped and approached Clemens. Both teams emptied their dugouts with each expecting a fight. The umpires quickly separated the adversaries and in less than a minute both teams had returned to their dugouts.5 Piazza hit the next pitch to Jose Vizcaino at second base to end the inning.
Clemens’ behavior overshadowed the rest of the game. Yankees manager Joe Torre denied that Clemens had meant to hit Piazza when he threw the bat in front of him. Clemens said his action was due to out-of-control emotions in a big game.6 Whatever the cause, Clemens’ actions in the top of the first were talked about more than his eight innings of solid pitching.
In the bottom of the inning, Mets pitcher Mike Hampton allowed the Yankees to jump out to a 2-0 lead. He got Chuck Knoblauch to line out to center field and struck out Derek Jeter. But then he walked both David Justice and Bernie Williams, and Tino Martinez hit a single to left field that scored Justice. The next batter, Jorge Posada, singled up the middle to score Williams. Hampton got out of the inning by striking out Paul O’Neill.
While the Yankees were batting in the bottom of the first inning, Clemens withdrew to a private room in the clubhouse and refocused. He returned to the field in the second inning and showed that he was not distracted by the events of the previous inning.7 With one out Todd Zeile hit a single, one of just two hits the Mets got off Clemens. He struck out the next two batters and continued to dominate through the next six innings. Clemens struck out nine batters before leaving the game after eight innings.
The Yankees continued to build their lead. Scott Brosius led off the second with a home run to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. They added another run in the fifth, when Martinez doubled to center field, Posada was intentionally walked, and O’Neill singled to right field. They scored again run in the seventh inning. Posada singled off reliever Glendon Rusch. O’Neill doubled and the slow-running Posada ended up on third base. Brosius hit a deep sacrifice fly to score Posada. The Yankees’ last run came in the eighth when Jeter hit a double down the first-base line and scored on a single by Martinez.
Down 6-0, the Mets came alive in the ninth inning. Jeff Nelson replaced Clemens. Alfonso led off the inning with a single and Piazza hit a home run down the left-field line, making the score 6-2. After Nelson gave up a single to Robin Ventura, the Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera, was called in. He got Zeile to fly out to left field for the first out of the inning. Bennie Agbayani singled to left field and a passed ball allowed both runners to advance a base. Lenny Harris then hit a groundball to shortstop Jeter, who threw out Ventura trying to score. The next batter, Jay Payton, hit a home run to right field to bring the Mets to within one run of the tying the game. Rivera buckled down and ended the game by striking out Kurt Abbott on three pitches.
After the game, Major League Baseball, reviewing the bat-tossing incident, rejected Clemens’ claims of an innocuous act done in the emotions of the moment. The commissioner’s office fined him $50,000 for “inappropriate conduct.” The fine came after a review that considered Clemens’ history with Piazza before coming to a decision. The bat ended up selling in a 2014 auction for $47,800, a steep price for a memento from one of the oddest and most inflamed moments in World Series history.8
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, Baseball-Reference.com, Baseball-Almanac.com, and Retrosheet.org websites were used for box score, player, team, and season pages, pitching and batting game logs, and other material pertinent to this game account.
1 The record was broken on October 23, 2005, when the Chicago White Sox defeated the Houston Astros in 14 innings in a World Series game that lasted 5 hours and 41 minutes.
2 “2000 World Series,” MLB.com, accessed November 5, 2016.
3 Matthew Callan, “In the Year 2000: World Series Game 2,” Amazing Avenue.com, accessed November 14, 2016.
4 Thomas Hill, “Roger Clemens Sticks It to Mike Piazza and the Mets During 2000 Subway World Series; Rocket Tosses Bat, 8 Scoreless Innings,” New York Daily News, October 23, 2000.
7 Buster Olney, “Throwing a Bat and Piercing the Mets,” New York Times, October 22, 2000.
8 Erick Fernandez, “15 Years Ago, Roger Clemens Infamously Tossed a Bat Toward Mike Piazza,” Huffington Post.com, accessed November 16, 2016.