Arizona strikes in 9th to capture World Series

2-run comeback stuns Yankees in Game 7

November 05, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks were barely under construction the last time the world championship trophy was delivered to an address other than Yankee Stadium. Now they have a trophy of their own.

It took a poetic justice comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning, but the Diamondbacks made good on Curt Schilling's Game 7 guarantee and defeated the three-time defending world champion New York Yankees, 3-2, last night at sold-out, whacked-out Bank One Ballpark.

The same team that found itself reeling after a pair of late-inning bullpen collapses at Yankee Stadium did what no team had been able to do since the Yankees last lost a playoff series in 1997: They rallied for two runs to defeat closer Mariano Rivera and end his string of 23 consecutive successful save opportunities.

Start spreading the news. There's a new sheriff in town.

It took Arizona just four years to go from expansion draft to world champion, winning baseball's ultimate prize faster than any other expansion franchise. The Florida Marlins had owned that distinction since winning the title in their fifth season in 1997 - the last time any team other than the Yankees won it all.

What a Series. The Diamondbacks came down to their last three outs after Schilling surrendered a tie-breaking home run to Alfonso Soriano in the eighth inning, but Rivera finally proved mortal and Diamondbacks regular-season MVP Luis Gonzalez ended the Yankees dynasty with a broken-bat single that sent fans into hysterics.

"I think it's the best World Series, as far as drama, in a long time," said baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

What an understatement.

This Fall Classic included three ninth-inning comebacks in the last four games, enough to keep Rivera and battered Diamondbacks closer Byung-Hyun Kim in a cold sweat all winter.

"It could not have ended in a more dramatic fashion," said Gonzalez, whose single landed softly in short center field and brought home Jay Bell with the winning run. "The way we have battled, fighting tooth and nail all year, up 2-0 in this Series, going back down 3-2 ... that was a storybook ending for our team."

Schilling, who had guaranteed before Game 6 that the Diamondbacks would win the title if they got to Game 7, dueled likely Hall of Famer Roger Clemens to a scoreless draw until the sixth inning, when Arizona took the lead on an RBI double by Danny Bautista. Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez tied the game in the bottom of the seventh with a run-scoring single and Soriano shocked Schilling with a leadoff home run in the eighth.

Rivera was in the wings, so that figured to be the last in a series of dynamic momentum shifts that made this World Series a true Fall Classic.

Instead, Game 6 starter Randy Johnson would be the heroic reliever this time, holding the Yankees in check to register his third victory of the Series and share the World Series Most Valuable Player award with Schilling.

Maybe it shouldn't have come to that - not after the Diamondbacks went into the ninth inning twice with two-run leads at Yankee Stadium - but the fans who rocked the BOB long after the winning run scored were more than happy to celebrate the world championship on their home turf.

The Yankees took it to the limit, but they could not complete the storybook postseason that began with a comeback against the Oakland Athletics in the Division Series. They had been cast as a symbol of the unbreakable spirit of the city most devastated by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and they had repeatedly shown the kind of resilience that has come to characterize New York in the wake of the great tragedy, but their three-year postseason run had to end sometime.

"I think the people of New York got what they wanted," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They saw a ballclub out there that struggled at times and yet found a way to get through it. And I think that pretty much epitomizes what they have been doing here the last couple of months."

There would not be a fourth straight title, but the Yankees and Diamondbacks put on one of the greatest shows ever to grace baseball's biggest stage.

"I certainly think so," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. "It's had a little bit of everything. It's had great pitching. It's had some of the most ungodly timely hitting you're ever going to see in your life. We have had offensive explosions. We have had great defense. We have had shoddy defense. We've had enough manager's decisions to keep all of you guys [in the media] happy, and certainly enough competitive games to keep all of the fans in both cities happy. I can't wait to sit back and watch the tapes."

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