Johnson, D'backs blank Yanks

Lefty throws 3-hitter in 4-0 win as Arizona takes 2-0 advantage

World Series

October 29, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - The mission was well-defined. The Arizona Diamondbacks needed to sweep the first two games of the 97th World Series at Bank One Ballpark to insulate themselves against the intimidating environment that they will certainly face in their first visit to Yankee Stadium.

Mission accomplished, and then some.

The Diamondbacks, saddled with the reputation of being a two-horse team, got a dominating performance from each of their go-to starting pitchers over the weekend, the second a three-hitter by National League strikeout king Randy Johnson that carried them to a 4-0 victory last night before a sellout crowd of 49,646.

No doubt, the Diamondbacks would take issue with the notion that they are too dependent on Johnson and Game 1 winner Curt Schilling, but they clearly needed to get the most out of their twin Cy Young Award candidates to offset the apparent mismatch between the softer side of their playoff rotation and upcoming Yankees starters Roger Clemens and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.

Schilling surrendered three hits in seven innings in Game 1, keeping himself eligible for a possible Game 4 rotation change. Johnson was even more overpowering, holding the Yankees to one hit through the first seven innings while Arizona clung to a one-run lead.

Johnson obviously enjoyed another opportunity to dispel the notion that he isn't a good postseason pitcher. He has built a three-game postseason winning streak since breaking a seven-game playoff losing streak in the NL Championship Series.

"I put this game right up there with Game 1 in the NLCS," said Johnson, who allowed just three hits and retired 20 straight against the Atlanta Braves.

Third baseman Matt Williams took the pressure off in the bottom of the seventh with a long three-run home run that gave Johnson sufficient breathing room and sent Yankees starter Andy Pettitte to his second loss in four 2001 postseason decisions despite a solid performance.

Williams wrote his name into the record book with his no-doubt blast to left field, becoming the first player in history to homer in the World Series for three different teams. He also homered in the 1989 "Earthquake" World Series for the San Francisco Giants and hit one in the 1997 World Series as a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Then, in his typical low-key manner, Williams discounted the importance of his contribution.

"It didn't do anything for us," he said. "As it turned out, we did not need it. Randy pitched great."

The Diamondbacks are bidding to make some history of their own. They already are the expansion team to reach the World Series the quickest, getting to baseball's ultimate stage in their fourth season of existence. If history is any gauge, their chances of also winning a world title the quickest are pretty good. Of the 47 teams that previously won the first two games of the Fall Classic, 36 have gone on to win the championship.

Interestingly, it will be left-hander Brian Anderson - the first player chosen by the Diamondbacks in the 1997 expansion draft - who will take the ball for Game 3 tomorrow night against Clemens.

"We need to break the fall right now," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "Obviously, Roger's our guy and hopefully we can get it done on Tuesday."

The Yankees have been down before. They lost the first two games of the Division Series to the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium before rallying to win the next three to advance to the American League Championship Series.

They won the first two games of the ALCS against the 116-win Seattle Mariners but came within an inning of a Game 4 loss that would have given the home-field advantage back to the Mariners.

Last year, they rebounded from a terrible September to beat the same two teams in the playoffs and roll over the New York Mets in the Subway Series.

Maybe that's why Torre didn't seem particularly concerned after the Diamondbacks pummeled Mike Mussina and the Yankees, 9-1, in the opener Saturday, but he clearly recognized that the situation had become far more critical last night.

"We're down," he said. "You can't lose the first two games of a seven-game series and not feel the effects."

The Yankees went right from Schilling's strong performance in Game 1 to a rested and overpowering Johnson, who struck out seven of the first nine batters he faced and carried a no-hit bid into the fifth inning. He would finish with 11 strikeouts and the first complete-game shutout in World Series play since Schilling pitched one in Game 5 for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993."[Johnson] was wonderful," Torre said. "He was sensational. He lived up to what he's supposed to be."

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada finally broke through with a leadoff single in the fifth, but Johnson continued to move easily through a Yankees lineup that had been specially configured to offset his tremendous advantage against left-handed hitters.

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