D'backs get even, 15-2

22-hit onslaught back in Ariz. forces Yankees into Game 7

N.Y.: Worst postseason loss

Schilling, Clemens are set to square off in one-game Series

World Series

November 04, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - It was always going to come down to this.

Maybe there were some doubters after the Arizona Diamondbacks took a quick two-game lead in this 97th World Series. Maybe there were some more when the New York Yankees swept three games at Yankee Stadium in stunning fashion to leave the D'backs - pardon the expression - more than a little rattled.

There was always going to be a Game 7. It was destiny with a capital "D" at the beginning or a big "NY" at the end. We'll find out tonight.

The Diamondbacks may have been pushed to the wall at Yankee Stadium, but they pushed back last night, scoring a ridiculously easy 15-2 victory behind big left-hander Randy Johnson to push the Series to a Game 7 showdown tonight at Bank One Ballpark.

Future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens will take the mound for the Yankees, and Curt Schilling will be the starter for the Diamondbacks in what will be the first seventh-game matchup between 20-game winners since 1985.

"I guess it was supposed to come down to seven," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We are all going home [after] tomorrow. It should be a marquee matchup, Roger against Curt. They are both 20-game winners. They are both in line for the Cy Young Award. I think the fans will get a treat tomorrow. Hopefully, it lives up to what it is supposed to live up to."

It should. Schilling even went so far as to "guarantee" before last night's game that Arizona would win the World Series if it got to a decisive seventh game.

What better way to end one of the most exciting World Series ever played.

OK, so Game 6 didn't really measure up, but the dynamic rebound by the Diamondbacks - after back-to-back devastating late-inning defeats in New York - only added to the intrigue.

Arizona battered the Yankees' pitching staff so completely that Fox was polling viewers in the third inning to see if they would favor removing Johnson so that he would be available to pitch tonight.

The Diamondbacks scored in each of the first four innings and batted around to score eight times in the third, chasing dependable left-hander Andy Pettitte and embarrassing long reliever Jay Witasick with a string of solid hits that allowed the sellout crowd of 49,707 to relax and enjoy the worst postseason beating the Yankees have ever suffered.

"Nobody likes to get beat up as badly as we did tonight," Torre said, "but the only saving grace is that it is just one game. We were in the position to take this and still be here for a seventh game, so it's all perspective. Seattle beat the hell out of us one game [in the American League Championship Series], and we were able to bounce back."

Johnson could have gotten by on a lot less. He gave up just two runs on six hits through seven innings and probably could have been removed after the third if manager Bob Brenly had felt that he would be fresh enough to pitch in relief of a tired Schilling in Game 7.

The only time The Big Unit had to push himself was on the basepaths, which he circled twice.

"Obviously, it's easier when the offense did what it did tonight," Johnson said. "This game was made easy for me after the third or fourth inning, simply because we had 12 runs at that point. I suppose it is difficult for a pitcher to go out there and stay focused when you have that many runs, but it's not that difficult to stay focused when you are in a World Series and you are playing the New York Yankees."

Every Diamondbacks hitter had at least one hit by the end of the third inning and at least one RBI by the end of the fourth. Outfielder Danny Bautista and third baseman Matt Williams had three hits each after three innings. The team broke the all-time World Series record for hits in a game when Greg Colbrunn delivered their 21st hit of the game - in the sixth inning. Arizona finished with 22.

The previous record was held jointly by the 1921 New York Giants and the 1946 St. Louis Cardinals, which means that it had gone unchallenged for a mere 55 years.

"It's an aberration when any team is able to get 22 hits and 15 runs with the kind of pitching that clubs have this time of year," Brenly said. "It's a freak thing. It's not going to happen all of the time, and it just means that we won a ballgame tonight and forced Game 7."

Brenly couldn't have dreamed up a more perfect scenario. He had been cast as the hapless dupe who managed the Diamondbacks right out of two late-inning leads at Yankee Stadium. His decision to remove Schilling after seven innings in Game 4 has been the hottest topic of debate in this postseason, and his handling of closer Byung-Hyun Kim made him the target of almost universal criticism.

He appeared to be setting himself up for another colossal second-guess last night when he revamped his lineup and removed center fielder Steve Finley, first baseman Mark Grace and second baseman Craig Counsell from the defensive alignment.

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