- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 28, 2001

D'BACKS 9, YANKEES 1

PHOENIX The Arizona Diamondbacks knew they were capable of beating the New York Yankees on the strength of their starting pitching. Curt Schilling, who took the mound for Arizona in Game 1 of the World Series last night, has been as automatic as they come this fall, tossing three complete games in as many postseason starts.
The Diamondbacks, though, could not have been expecting to topple the three-time defending World Series champions behind an offense that was, at best, sporadic through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
That surprising turn of events, along with the customary gem from Schilling, led to a 9-1 pounding before 49,646 at Bank One Ballpark that may give the first-time National League champs reason to believe they have a better chance in this Series than most give them credit for.
"You know, the Yankees are who they are," Schilling said. "They have got 26 World Series [championships] because of their ownership and the characters and players they put on the field. But that does not mean that they are going to beat us. We have a job to do, and we deserve to be here just like they deserve to be here."
Based on their showing in Game 1, the Diamondbacks certainly look like they belong here. They went right after Mike Mussina and drove New York's best starting pitcher since September from the game in three innings, then battered the Yankees' suspect long relief around the park for good measure.
The Yankees, of course, aren't about to start panicking. They were pulverized by Seattle 14-3 in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series last week, then came back to win the next two games and the pennant from the Mariners. And in 1996, when their current run of four championships in five years began, they lost Game 1 of the World Series to the Atlanta Braves 12-1 plus Game 2 only to sweep the next four.
"It's not demoralizing," said right fielder David Justice, whose third-inning error helped open the door for Arizona. "We lost 9-1, but it's not demoralizing."
In neither of those previous cases, though, did New York face the prospect of Randy Johnson, the second-half of Arizona's 1-2 pitching punch, who takes the mound tonight in Game 2 against Andy Pettitte.
The first half of that dynamic duo, Schilling, was his usually masterful self in holding the Yankees to one run and three hits in seven innings. He didn't really make any mistakes in giving New York a 1-0 first-inning lead Derek Jeter was awarded first base on a high-and-tight fastball that may or may not have grazed his left hand, then scored on Bernie Williams' cue-ball shot double just inside the left-field foul line.
Aside from Scott Brosius' bloop double to center field and Jorge Posada's line drive single in the fourth, Schilling was untouchable. He departed after seven innings having walked one, struck out eight and improved his 2001 postseason record to 4-0 with an 0.79 ERA.
"I don't think there's ever a stress-free outing, but it was as close to that as you can get," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. "He was pitching the way he has throughout the entire season, especially this postseason."
The veteran right-hander and Phoenix native has gotten plenty of credit for leading the expansion Diamondbacks in their fourth season of existence to the promised land. Schilling's offensive teammates, on the other hand, have routinely been the subjects of criticism as an aging group of slumping hitters who haven't been able to sustain momentum for significant stretches of time.
They looked plenty sharp last night, though, beginning with Craig Counsell's surprising first-inning homer off Mussina. The Arizona second baseman, NLCS MVP and only roster member to own a World Series ring picked up right where he left off, belting a 2-1 pitch from the ex-Baltimore Orioles ace over the right-field fence for the Diamondbacks' first run.
"That was a huge lift," Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez said. "Those guys got a run early on us, and I'm sure they thought, 'Here we go, we're the Yankees and we're going to score some more runs.' For us to come back and for Counsell to hit that home run, it showed everybody that we are out here to play with these guys."
Mussina, 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA this postseason entering the game, got himself in serious trouble in the third when he plunked leadoff hitter Tony Womack and then served a two-run homer to Gonzalez. Relatively quiet in the playoffs after hitting 57 home runs in the regular season, Gonzalez took advantage of a poorly located Mussina fastball (down and in) and crushed it 15 rows deep into the right-field bleachers.
Mussina continued to struggle through the rest of the inning, though he was done in by shoddy defense behind him. Justice, getting the start in right field in place of Paul O'Neill, dropped Steve Finley's fly ball at the warning track later in the third. Arizona made Justice pay for the gaffe with Matt Williams' run-scoring fly out and Damian Miller's RBI double down the third-base line.
"I just took my eye off it," said Justice, who had a miserable night at the plate as well, striking out in all three at-bats against Schilling. "I make that catch 99 percent of the time. Unfortunately, I didn't make it tonight."
Making his first World Series start after a decade in Baltimore, Mussina consistently got ahead of the Diamondbacks hitters last night but could not finish the job, usually because of a misplaced pitch.
"It's not something I'm going to remember fondly, I can tell you that," he said. "Not because of what happened, but because of the stuff I went out there with."
Seldom-used reliever Randy Choate replaced Mussina in the fourth and proceeded to give up four runs, though only one was earned after Brosius botched a backhand stab at a Williams grounder that would have been the third out of the inning. Mark Grace followed with a two-run double that put the Diamondbacks up 9-1.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide