2006-08-18 / Sports

With Mighty Bat,Piazza Remains A Hero of Flushing

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

San Diego Padres catcher Mike Piazza salutes the Shea Stadium crowd in his first at bat to as an opponent. Photos By Borriello Photography. San Diego Padres catcher Mike Piazza salutes the Shea Stadium crowd in his first at bat to as an opponent. Photos By Borriello Photography. FLUSHING, NY Pedro Martinez felt what his former battery-mate went though on Tuesday almost two months ago. The excitement of returning to his former home was as a hero but only gave an meek performance to the crowd.

But unlike Martinez in Boston, Mike Piazza had the opportunity to followup his 1-4 performance with a tremendous night off the Mets' ace.

Two monster home runs from the slugger, which accounted for Martinez's only blemishes in the Mets' 4-3 win over Piazza's Padres.

"Last night, my adrenaline was pumping and I was out of my rhythm," Piazza said. "It's just so tough to play when you get that type of a response from the crowd. So tonight, I was ready to exhale."

And after he blew out a Martinez pitch in the fourth over the right-center field wall with the Mets holding a 4-0 lead, the appreciative fans were so loud, Piazza took a curtain call.

"Yeah [it was surprising,] because being not in the home field," Piazza said. "I didn't want to show up the other team. Then they ask you to do it, it's just one of those things. I had so much history with these fans, so I had to do it."

Piazza completes his swing on his first home run of the night against Pedro Martinez. Piazza completes his swing on his first home run of the night against Pedro Martinez. So, after Adrian Gonzalez grounded out, Piazza stuck his head out to the crowd and waved for one last time. Which even made his manager smile.

"It's new to me," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "What these fans have done to show their appreciation for what Mike has done for the Met organization, is special to see. They are great fans."

But as the game wore on, the hometown backers started to see the laundry on the star and the loud ovations diminished in the sixth, when Piazza pulled a Martinez fastball into the picnic area.

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