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Piazza And Mets In A War


Mike Piazza faced a media horde in a hotel conference room Monday evening, his left arm dangling helplessly under the table.

"I'm looking for a donor," Piazza joked. "Maybe I could call Arnold Schwarzenegger and get his left arm."

The NL Championship Series has become a war zone for the New York Mets catcher, whose left thumb already was hurting after the opening round of the playoffs.

Through five games against the Atlanta Braves, Piazza has been hit twice with a bat backswings by Gerald Williams and Ryan Klesko and has been on the receiving end of bone-crushing collisions at home plate with Bret Boone and Keith Lockhart.

The mishaps left Piazza with an aching hand and a deep bruise on his left forearm, not to mention the lingering effects of a slight concussion. He was forced to leave New York's 4-3, 15-inning victory in Game 5 with two innings to go, the pain simply too much to bear.

Piazza plans to be back on the field for Game 6 Tuesday night at Turner Field. The Braves lead the best-of-7 series 3-2, but the Mets have momentum from two straight victories.

"I feel a little better," Piazza said after the Mets arrived at their downtown hotel. "I had a good night of sleep. I'm a little banged up, but I'll give it all I have."

Piazza has never gone through a stretch with so many nagging injuries. He might switch to a lighter bat to cope with the pain in his arm and hand.

"It's weird," he said. "I can't explain why I'm so banged up. Maybe I've done something wrong. Maybe I need to do a good deed like helping an old woman across the street."

On Sunday, after Lockhart tried unsuccessfully to bowl over Piazza with the tie-breaking run in the top of the 13th, the catcher came to bat in the bottom half. But he knew it was time to come out after striking out against John Rocker.

"My whole arm felt numb," Piazza said. "There was a tingling in my fingers and a real hot sensation throughout the arm."

He was replaced by Todd Pratt, who walked with the bases loaded to force in the tying run in the 15th before Robin Ventura's grand slam-sngle brought home the game-winner.

Pratt hit the series-winning homer against Arizona in the opening round.

"Todd is doing such a great job, it's not like the guys are saying, `If Mike's not in there, we can't win the game,"' Piazza said. "Everybody knows they can make an impact with this team."

Others are starting to take notice of the Mets, who had to win the final four games of the regular season just to make the playoffs. Now, they've rallied to win two straight games against the Braves won the first three.

"No matter what happens, I think they can walk around proudly anywhere, New York especially," Yankees manager Joe Torre said before his team played Boston in Game 5 of the ALCS on Monday night. "They've shown a lot of heart and lot of grit to win those games."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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