D'backs' 9th unseats Yanks, 3-2

4th-year upstarts end 3-year N.Y. reign

stop Rivera save run at 23

World Series

November 05, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks stared at a dynasty and didn't blink.

There was the occasional cringe as their rookie closer blew two saves in the Bronx, but mostly, the Diamondbacks bore a look of confidence and defiance that belied the franchise's youth. The biggest stage in baseball, with all its loose floorboards, didn't intimidate them. Neither did the team that so gracefully had walked across it.

One inning away from defeat and facing the most prolific postseason reliever in history, the Diamondbacks scored twice in the ninth to take a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series before 49,589 at raucous Bank One Ballpark.

Tony Womack doubled to right off Mariano Rivera to tie the score, and Luis Gonzalez punched a bases-loaded single into shallow left-center field to make Arizona, in its fourth year of existence, the youngest team to win a title.

It was as shocking as it was sudden. Arizona's chances appeared over once rookie Alfonso Soriano led off the eighth by homering on a two-strike pitch from Curt Schilling, who had guaranteed a victory. Rivera, who had converted 23 straight save chances in the postseason, jumped to his feet and began to warm up in the bullpen. In the ninth, the Diamondbacks jumped on him.

Jay Bell, who bunted into a force, was mobbed at the plate as he scored on Gonzalez's single and the crowd erupted. As his feet touched down, the Yankees' run of consecutive championships had ended at three. Their attempt to win it all for the fifth time in six years also was history.

Pitching for the second straight night, Randy Johnson gave Arizona 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief to gain the victory and share Most Valuable Player honors with Schilling, who engaged in a spirited duel with Roger Clemens. Schilling retired 16 in a row before losing a 1-0 lead in the seventh on a one-out single by Tino Martinez that scored Derek Jeter.

Needing six more outs after Soriano's homer, Rivera struck out the side in the eighth but allowed a leadoff single to Mark Grace in the ninth. Damian Miller reached on a throwing error by Rivera, who was trying for a force at second, and Womack tied the game an out later with a liner near the right-field line.

Craig Counsell was hit to load the bases for Gonzalez, who accumulated 60 homers this year, including the postseason, but needed only a flare to end Game 7.

"Everybody, in the bottom of our hearts, thought we could win this ballgame," Gonzalez said.

Mystique and aura? Referred to as "dancers in a nightclub" by Schilling, their heel marks faded from this Series. Johnson went 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA. Schilling was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in three starts.

Johnson threw 101 pitches on Saturday but insisted he could go an inning last night. Brenly didn't argue, not after seeing Byung-Hyun Kim allow three homers in two appearances in New York that extended the Series.

"When you go out there it's all adrenaline," Johnson said. "We never gave up and that's very fitting with this team, with all the veterans we have."

The Diamondbacks didn't have to settle for being a stubborn opponent unfazed by the pressure or their role as underdog to a team that became a symbol of New York's resurgence after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

"There's no question that what went on in New York inspired us a great deal, with all the rescue workers and everything. We just fell a little short, but we didn't fall short in the effort that we gave," manager Joe Torre said. "I think the people of New York got what they wanted. They saw a ballclub out there that struggled at times but found a way to get through it. And I think that pretty much epitomizes what they have been doing here for the last couple of months."

Clemens and Schilling formed a pitching matchup that might have gone unrivaled in Series history. Two 20-game winners, strikeout artists and leading candidates to win their league's respective Cy Young awards - connected as well by Clemens' stern advice to Schilling while the latter was a free-spirited reliever with the Houston Astros in the early 1990s.

Schilling became more serious, and bolder with his predictions. He declared on Saturday that the Diamondbacks were nine innings away from being champions, knowing the pitcher who held the ball for them also possessed an 0.88 ERA in five postseason starts this year. Backing up his words, he faced the minimum number of batters through six innings while holding the Yankees to one hit - a double by Paul O'Neill in the first inning. O'Neill was thrown out trying for third.

Clemens wasn't nearly as sharp but still matched Schilling in scoreless innings until the sixth, when Danny Bautista's double scored former Oriole Steve Finley from first base. As the ball rolled to the fence, with Finley sprinting around the bases after his leadoff single, the Yankees' chances at a fourth consecutive world championship appeared to be fading.

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