06/29/2002 6:30 pm ET
Vaughn remains hot against Yanks
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Oh, you can see it in Mo Vaughn's eyes.
You can see it in his walk as well. The swagger has definitely returned.
And when the big first baseman speaks, his words are once again loud and clear.
Mostly, though, it's easy to tell that the "Hit Dog" is back by the way he's performing at the plate. Vaughn continued his resurgence Saturday by cracking his fourth home run in three games as the Mets pounded the Yankees, 11-2, to snap a two-game losing streak.
Vaughn's blast, a titanic shot that reached the halfway point of the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium, was the highlight of a season-high, 16-hit Met attack. Vance Wilson and Mike Piazza also blasted homers for the Mets, marking the first time this season that Vaughn and Piazza have gone deep in the same game. It also marked the third time -- the first since June 11 against the White Sox -- the Mets have collected 16 hits.
Combined with Friday's nine-hit, three-home run effort, the weekend in the Bronx seems to be just what the Mets needed to snap out of their season-long offensive malaise. It was also the third consecutive game in which the Mets blasted three homers. And it's only fitting that Vaughn is at the crux of this offensive display. Admittedly, he's been one of the primary reasons why the Mets have struggled to score runs this season.
Over the last week, however, he's looked more like the Vaughn who terrorized the Yanks for eight years as a member of the Red Sox. That's good news for the Mets, who couldn't have afforded a dormant offense much longer if they want to have any chance of catching the Braves in the National League East.
"I'm starting to feel pretty good about my hitting," said Vaughn, who is hitting .473 [9-for-19] over his last five games with four homers and six RBIs. "The first two and a half months I was worrying where my hands are, where the bat was, am I too close to the plate, am I too far and this and that. Now I just go sit there in the rocking chair and let the ball come to me."
That Vaughn's fifth inning blast off came off Ted Lilly, a lefty, shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. Though it was only his third homer off a southpaw, he is hitting .287 against lefties. He says he isn't intimidated by lefties, and it showed against Lilly.
"I knew that he was swinging the bat well," Lilly said. "The first at-bat [a Vaughn walk] he laid off a couple of tough pitches. But you still feel like if you make good pitches, you're going to get him out. That at-bat in the fifth, I didn't do that. I got behind in the count, came in with a fastball and left it right in his wheelhouse."
Vaughn narrowly missed his second homer of the game an inning later when he rocketed a Ramiro Mendoza offering more than 400 feet to center field. The ball bounced off the top of the wall, inches from going out.
"The second one should have gone out," Vaughn said. "You hit a ball that far, it shouldn't hit the top of the wall. The main thing is that I hit the ball back up the middle."
John Valentin, Vaughn's long-time friend and teammate from his days with the Red Sox and Seton Hall, has seen more of the Boston-era Vaughn this week than the shadow version who's been dotting the Mets lineup since Opening Day. He knows better than anyone of what Vaughn is capable.
"Mo swung the bat well today; I'm happy for him," said Valentin, who had two hits and two RBIs. "This is what I know he can do. He's put in a pretty good three or four days here. It's a long season, though. Hopefully he can build from here and continue to be productive."
Vaughn knows that the feel-good atmosphere running rampant through the Mets clubhouse could be squashed quickly, especially if they come back Sunday night against Andy Pettitte and once again fail to produce offensively. The Mets moved one game above .500 with the win but remained 9 1/2 back of the Braves. No one expects a 16-hit game every night out, just consistency. Without it, the gap between the Mets and Atlanta will only continue to grow.
"It's still a week before the All-Star break," Vaughn said. "It's not even August yet. Tomorrow is more important than today or yesterday, though. We need to win. We need to go out and just be consistent."
They need the "Hit Dog" to play like he did this week from here on in. That's not too much of a stretch, though. You can see it in Vaughn's eyes.
Kevin T. Czerwinski covers the Mets for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.