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 losing and facing the most prolific post-season 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.

Jay Bell, who bunted into a force, was mobbed at the plate as the crowd erupted. As his feet, touched down, the Yankees' run of consecutive championships had ended at three.

Pitching for the second straight night, Randy Johnson gave Arizona 1 1/3 scoreless innings in relief after Curt Schilling, who guaranteed a win and engaged in a spirited duel with Roger Clemens, held the Yankees to two runs over 7 1/3. A leadoff homer by rookie Alfonso Soriano in the eighth gave New York a 2-1 lead and made the outcome seem inevitable with Rivera on the scene.

Rivera had converted 23 straight postseason saves before last night. He 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, 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 hit 60 homers this year, including the postseason, but needed only a flare to end Game 7.

When Soriano rounded the bases with his fist pointed toward the sky, he appeared to create a lasting image in this Series. But not after Johnson gutted out the last 1 1/3 innings, and Gonzalez reached the outfield grass.

Mystique and aura? Referred to as "dancers in a nightclub" by Schilling, their heel marks faded from this Series.

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 attacks.

"The most important thing is you always want an opportunity to defend what you've done, and that's not always the case," said manager Joe Torre, whose club was outscored 37-14. "Teams that win the World Series don't necessarily get to the World Series again the following year."

With the Yankees, it just seems that way.

Their 26 world championships remain the most of any team in any sport. Only the Florida Marlins in 1997 had interrupted a streak that began in 1996, when Torre took over as manager.

I've always felt that when you are going to relinquish it, Torre said, 'you want to make somebody take it away from you.

Schilling's tug came from a body wracked with fatigue and carrying 297 2/3 total innings this year. He again was pitching on three days' rest after winning Game 1 and leaving with a lead in Game 4 that rookie closer Byung-Hyun Kim couldn't hold. Another blown save by Kim the following night helped to create a pitching matchup last night 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' stem 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 a 0.88 ERA in five postseason starts this year.

'The whole thing is, with all of the talking you still have to go out and play,'Torre said.

No NL pitcher had gone the distance in the seventh game of a World Series since Pittsburgh' Steve Blass against the Orioles in 1971. Schilling seemed determined, holding the Yankees to one hit through six innings while facing the minimum number of batters. Paul O'Neill, playing his last game, doubled with one out in the first but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. Schilling retired the next 16 batters, with the crowd that filled the BOB roaring at every two-strike pitch.

Clemens wasn't nearly as sharp but still matched Schilling in scoreless innings until the sixth, when Danny Batista'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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