Clemens throws off D'backs

`Rocket,' Rivera whiff 13 in 3-hit, 2-1 win to slice Arizona lead

Schilling to pitch Game 4

Diamondbacks drop pop-ups, game as N.Y. shines in field

World Series

October 31, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Showing they're defending world champions until someone proves differently, the New York Yankees last night seized upon seven driven innings from starting pitcher Roger Clemens, a grotesque defensive performance by their nervous opponent and a dominant two-inning close from Mariano Rivera to overcome the Arizona Diamondbacks, 2-1, in Game 3 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium.

Played out before a chanting crowd of 55,820 that included President Bush, the Yankees' combination three-hitter allowed them to halve the Diamondbacks' lead to 2-to-1 in the best-of-seven event.

Third baseman Scott Brosius' two-out, sixth-inning single against reliever Mike Morgan broke a 1-1 tie that had defied three errors, as many wild pitches and Clemens' lockdown.

More importantly, the Yankees forced rookie manager Bob Brenly into the Series' pivotal decision: to start Game 1 winner Curt Schilling tonight on three days' rest for the first time in his career.

"Curt Schilling is going to start tomorrow because he's the right guy to start tomorrow," Brenly said.

The Yankees again demonstrate why they remain the game's irresistible force. Even though they are hitting .144 in the Series while the Diamondbacks have constructed a 1.04 ERA, it is the trailing team that exudes stability. Schilling has never started on three days' rest in his 12-year career.

"It was a good night. We played ourselves back into this a little bit now," Clemens said.

"How many times have we been down this road?" said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose 1996 team rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Atlanta Braves in the World Series and earlier this month escaped a two-game hole against the Oakland Athletics in the American League Division Series. "I still believe in this club even though we're not a club that scores a lot of runs."

Clemens lifted his World Series record to 3-0 while leaving himself at 2-1 this postseason. He has won five Cy Young Awards and 280 regular-season games, yet Clemens continues to be nagged by a 6-6 postseason mark.

"For a pitcher as great as Rogers has been, he's really had to defend himself a lot. And after this game tonight, I don't think he'll have to defend himself again. He was dynamite," Torre said.

Of his postseason label, Clemens replied: "It doesn't amaze me at all. If it would have been a tie game today, I still would have done my job. Write what you want. It's not going to change anything. I've done it many times. I've left games tied. I've left close games when I was losing. I've pitched big games, little games, it makes no difference.

"I relish the moment and the competition. The only critics I really worry about are the guys I play with. If you ask the guys I've played with over 18 years, they can give you a definite and true answer."

Arizona managed only three hits while striking out nine times against Clemens. He walked three but allowed a runner into scoring position in just two innings.

"This was a big win. This was a game we had to have," said Brosius, who had struggled for much of the postseason before his telling hit.

Brenly called his decision "the great gamble" even before the loss. Unafraid of the unorthodox all season, his decision creates another question regarding a Game 5 starter; he is reluctant to bring back Game 2 winner Randy Johnson on three days' rest.

"That's been the dilemma throughout this thing and why I've tap danced around this question as often as I have," Brenly said. "The big question in a seven-game series - are you better served having your two horses go two times on regular rest or five times with three starts coming on short rest? Once again, the numbers say that it's not a percentage play to bring them back on short rest. But these guys are not your run-of-the-mill, ordinary pitchers."

Schilling allowed the Yankees three hits in seven innings last Saturday and had lobbied Brenly for tonight's opportunity.

"He didn't do cartwheels and he didn't look at me like I was crazy," Brenly said.

"I didn't want to shortchange us as a team if I felt good enough to take the ball," Schilling said. "I feel good enough to take the ball. I feel real good."

Brenly had clutched his choice of starters like a poker player holding an uncertain hand. Though his team still leads the Series, pitching Miguel Batista tonight as originally projected would leave the Diamondbacks vulnerable to a possible Game 7. Schilling's return tonight makes him available for the decisive game. Brenly showed his cards when he had Batista warm twice in the late innings last night.

"That's been the rumor the whole time. It doesn't surprise me," Torre said. "If the scoreboard was right, Batista was up warming. Even in a tie game, that's what Bob was planning to do. We'll show up."

Torre has no such predicament. He will send Orlando Hernandez tonight knowing that Clemens could return on regular rest for a Game 7. The Diamondbacks would be well advised to come dressed tonight for All Hallows as National League champions.

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