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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : National League Notebook : Mets’ Backman Also Tests Power of Print

Times Staff Writer

In the battle of athletes-turned-authors, David Cone took a conciliatory stance in his as-told-to column in Thursday’s New York Daily News, but Wally Backman, collaborating on a similar column in the New York Post, might have picked up the slack, providing the Dodgers with some more motivational fodder.

The headline on Backman’s column read: “We’ve got ‘em where we want ‘em--at Shea.”

Alluding to the New York Mets’ 6-3 loss in Wednesday night’s second game of the National League playoffs and resumption of the series tonight at Shea Stadium, second baseman Backman wrote:

“It wasn’t pretty, but all that matters is we’re coming home. We wanted this one, but we still did what we had to do here, getting the split, and now we take them home to our turf, and we’re tough to beat at Shea.

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” . . . I still like our chances. We get back to New York, and we’ll still have the momentum, the edge. We’re still the ones who beat their best pitcher (Orel Hershiser).

“They’ve just got to be wondering what in the hell they have to do to beat us. Mentally, we’ve got the big edge; physically, we’ve just gotta go out and do it.”

Backman seemed to pick up where Cone had left off in his Wednesday column. Cone awakened what Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher called a “sleeping dog” by saying that Hershiser had been lucky in Game 1 and that reliever Jay Howell reminded him of a high school pitcher.

Cone was tagged for 5 runs in 2 innings of the Dodgers’ victory in Game 2.

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In his Thursday column, Cone said:

“Let’s clean up this mess quickly: Dave Cone the pitcher lost to the Dodgers last night, not Dave Cone the writer.

“I know everyone is talking about my comments in yesterday’s Daily News. I’ll take responsibility for those words. They were mine. But those thoughts came after an emotional win. I meant my words to be facetious and I should’ve communicated that better. It was poor judgment.

“Some may think those comments--and the fact they ended up in the Dodger locker room--affected the outcome of the game. I don’t. I simply didn’t make the pitches I had to make. Not that the Dodgers hit me around the park, mind you. But when I needed big outs, I didn’t get them. . . .

“Were the Dodgers up for this game? Probably, yes. But I can’t say if they were any more up than a team should be in a playoff. I don’t think the Dodgers need me to motivate them.”

Cone also wrote that if he had to write his Wednesday column again he would say that Howell is an All-Star pitcher with a great curve, that Hershiser is an outstanding pitcher who makes his own luck and that John Shelby made a terrific effort to catch Gary Carter’s decisive bloop double in the ninth inning of Game 1.

The Mets had the National League’s best home record, 56-24. And no one pitched better at Shea than tonight’s starter for the Mets, Ron Darling.

The veteran right-hander was 14-1 with a 2.29 earned-run average at home, compared to 3-8 with a 4.83 ERA on the road.

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“It’s got to be total coincidence because I’ve pitched well on the road in the past,” Darling said Thursday. “I don’t feel any better at home or any more comfortable.”

The concern about Kirk Gibson’s hamstring strain seems to have dissipated. Gibson stole second base after drawing a walk in the sixth inning of Game 2 and has been running well. He just hasn’t found a way to steal first yet. He’s 0 for 6.

The bottom of the Met lineup is experiencing a similar struggle. Kevin McReynolds, Howard Johnson, Gary Carter and Wally Backman are a combined 2 for 28, with Carter having collected the 2 hits.

Johnson and Backman are expected to sit out tonight’s game against Dodger left hander-John Tudor. The Mets plan to use Kevin Elster at shortstop and Tim Teufel at second base.


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