Carried By Their Arms

Diamondbacks: 1-2 punch of Schilling and Johnson KO's foes.

October 27, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - If the situation calls for it, Arizona's Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson say they'll pitch on three days' rest during the World Series, which begins tonight. Even tired aces can produce a winning hand.

"They both came into my office a few days ago and volunteered," Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. "Ideally, we will not have to do that, but if necessary, we are not ruling it out. Our intention is to stay with a four-man rotation."

Only two of those men strike fear into opposing hitters and alone can dictate the outcome of an entire Series. Maybe Brenly should consider using them exclusively. Better to avoid burrowing too deeply into his staff, which is defined by Schilling and Johnson. The rest are just details.

Schilling will oppose New York's Mike Mussina in Game 1, with Johnson and Andy Pettitte paired off the next night. Brian Anderson will make his first postseason start for Arizona when the series shifts to the Bronx.

By choosing Anderson, Brenly reached into his bullpen with one hand and used the other to hold back Miguel Batista for Game 4. Albie Lopez, a bust since coming to Arizona from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and grossly ineffective in the National League Championship Series, will pitch only in relief.

Batista's assignment could change, however, if the Diamondbacks find themselves down 2-1 going into Wednesday. Schilling has gone the distance in all three postseason starts, allowing only two runs and striking out 30 in 27 innings. He's 16-1 when appearing after an Arizona loss. He's never pitched on short rest, but what better time to experiment?

"If I go out three times, which means we go seven games, that could be a good thing," Schilling said. "Or I might go out twice, which means five games, which could be a good thing. I haven't really thought about it much."

Once maligned for his October failures, Johnson is becoming just as imposing as Schilling, who is 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA in seven career postseason starts. The Big Unit was especially large in the NLCS, going seven innings in the decisive fifth game against the Atlanta Braves after tossing a shutout in the opener. He has 28 strikeouts in 24 innings, and a monkey removed from his back that he described as "King Kong."

Johnson had lost seven consecutive postseason decisions. He now unfurls another streak, shorter but more satisfying - two victories in a row.

"How about that?" he said, finally able to smile at references to his playoff performances. "I never really got caught up in it. I didn't feel like I pitched that poorly [3.71 postseason ERA before this year]. I still stand by that. Unfortunately, when you're in the postseason, that kind of stuff gets magnified.

"I gave up two runs [Sunday]. I gave up two runs when I was in with Houston and I lost. I've often talked to Curt about this. It's kind of funny. When you give up five or six runs and the team still wins, it's called a gutsy performance. If you lose the ballgame, it's a tough loss. I still haven't figured that out as long as I've played."

It's like trying to figure out how to beat Johnson and Schilling. The Diamondbacks are 5-1 with them in the playoffs, 7-3 overall. They combined for 43 wins and 665 strikeouts during the regular season and should finish 1-2 in the Cy Young voting.

"It's very easy to make the assumption that when Curt or Randy take the mound, that's a game we should win," Brenly said.

The Diamondbacks need only four wins to unseat the Yankees. Schilling and Johnson each will make at least two starts. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox did the math.

"I think Arizona's got a great chance," he said. "They've got two of the most outstanding back-to-back starters you could ever want."

Their personalities couldn't be much different. Any similarities between them end when they step off the mound, with the 6-foot-10 Johnson having the longer stride.

"I am an extrovert. He is an introvert," said Schilling, 34, who once dyed a blue streak in his hair and was scolded by veteran reliever Joe Price for his lackadaisical attitude before the Orioles traded him in 1991.

"I think it's almost like when you meet the perfect woman, opposites attract. I think that's very much the case with us. I'm not afraid to tell him on the golf course how good I think I am. I do that a lot of times to get him out of his game. But I think he's tentative when it comes to talking about himself.

"I've always told him that I didn't think believing in yourself and saying things about yourself was a bad thing if you could back it up. It's something I've always had to do to be who I am. I'd like to think he's made me more humble, but the guys would laugh me out of the clubhouse for that one."

Both pitchers are serious in their professions, and it takes quite a pull to get them out of a game. Schilling logged 256 2/3 innings during the regular season, Johnson 249 2/3 .

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