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Notebook : It’s a Relief for Cone to Get Back to Work

Times Staff Writer

David Cone was back letting his actions speak louder than his words Saturday.

Cone, 20-3 as a member of the New York Mets rotation this season, came out of the bullpen to pitch a perfect ninth inning in the Mets’ 8-4 victory over the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League championship series.

Cone was chased after 2 innings of Game 2, when the Dodgers were aroused by what they perceived to be Cone’s belittling remarks in his New York Daily News column, which he has since given up.

He made his relief appearance Saturday after the Mets used relief specialists Roger McDowell and Randy Myers.

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Cone is scheduled to start Game 6 Tuesday night, if it is necessary. Thus, Saturday was the normal day for him to throw between starts.

“The sooner I got back out there and contributed, the better for me and the team,” he said. “Anytime you contribute to a win it feels good. I don’t consider it vindication.”

Coincidentally, Jay Howell, the Dodger relief pitcher Cone compared to a high school pitcher in the column that angered the Dodgers, was ejected in the eighth inning for having an illegal substance on his glove.

Asked by a radio man if that made him feel better about what he had written, Cone said: “I don’t see the connection.”

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Met first baseman Keith Hernandez called Saturday’s weather conditions “as bad as they can be” and said the game itself was “as exciting and ugly” as any he has ever seen.

Hernandez contributed to it all via:

--A second-inning throwing error on Mike Scioscia’s bunt, leading to a pair of Dodger runs.

Hernandez made only 2 errors in 95 regular-season games and has won 10 straight Gold Gloves for his fielding excellence at first base.

Asked if the ball was wet when he flipped it wildly past second baseman Wally Backman, covering first, Hernandez said, “No, I had a great grip and made a bad throw. It’s kind of ironic. I’ve won the Gold Glove every year but made errors in the first inning of the first game of the World Series with Milwaukee (1982) and Boston (1986) and now this. If I was younger it might bother me. As it is, it won’t.”

--A third-inning drive with two on that carried through the wind to the warning track in left-center field where Kirk Gibson made a running catch.

“The ball was gone,” Hernandez said. “I crushed it. The wind held it up.”

--A slapstick attempt to advance from first to third on Darryl Strawberry’s single in the sixth. Hernandez rounded second base, slipped, stumbled and finally crawled the last few yards toward third, where he was tagged out.

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“The most exhausting second to third of my career,” Hernandez said, adding that if he had been on third when Kevin McReynolds hit a subsequent grounder, the Dodgers might have pulled a double play, ending the inning. Instead, the Mets went on to get 2 runs in the inning.

“If making a fool of myself in front of millions gets us 2 runs, I’ll do it every time,” Hernandez said.

The best play of a soggy afternoon was turned in by Gibson, who slipped on the wet outfield grass while chasing Mookie Wilson’s liner.

Gibson fell to his knees, recovered and then made a diving catch reminiscent of his days as a wide receiver at Michigan State.

“It was tough for me to stand up in the outfield,” Gibson said. “I changed shoes, but I only made bigger divots. The harder I ran, the more the ground gave way.”

Gibson, who grew up in the cold of Michigan, said it was about the coldest game he has played.

“It was so cold, I felt like I was in an ice bath,” he said.

Dodger starter Orel Hershiser, who allowed 1 earned run and 3 hits in 7 innings, said he had trouble gripping the ball because of the cold weather.

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“You really couldn’t grip it hard enough for your breaking balls to break,” Hershiser said. “You just try to stay ahead of people and do the best you could.”

Hershiser was among the Dodgers who said that, under normal circumstances, the game would not have been played.

“There was TV money at stake and other considerations,” Hershiser said. “But we can’t fault that. The Mets beat us, and they had to play in it, too.”

Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, said that neither he nor Manager Tom Lasorda will inform Dodger pitchers not to use pine tar on their gloves, as Jay Howell did Saturday.

“No, we won’t tell them that anymore than you’d tell a player after the fact not to write a guest column (as Cone did for a New York newspaper),” Claire said.

Times staff writer Sam McManis contributed to this story.


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