His pitcher had his heart on his sleeve, but Bob Brenly had his head on the block.
How many times does a manager -- a rookie manager, no less -- get second-guessed?
Put it this way: How high can you count?
In the biggest game of this intriguing chess match of a World Series, Brenly got caught thinking too many moves ahead. And suddenly, after a 4-3 win that took 10 innings and evened the Series at two games each, it's the Yankees, not the Diamondbacks who look ready to announce ''Check.''
Brenly started Diamondbacks ace Curt Schilling in Game 4 on just three days' rest. The Arizona manager may be new on the job, but he knows his baseball history. Over the last three postseasons, 15 different pitchers have tried the feat, including a few names you could drop into an envelope and mail directly to the Hall of Fame -- Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
And the only one to complete the assignment successfully is Jamie Moyer, who gets into the Hall only if he buys a ticket.
Even so, for most of Wednesday night, Brenly looked like a genius. Despite starting just once in his entire career on short rest, Schilling might as well have been throwing aspirins as baseballs. In seven innings, he gave up just three hits, one a solo home run by Shane Spencer, and that was about it.
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, nicked New York starter Orlando Hernandez for a run in the fourth, then scraped two more off relievers Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza in the eighth to take a 3-1 lead.
And that's when Brenly got ahead of himself.
The debate, even before the series began, was how Brenly would deploy Schilling and Randy Johnson, the best starting pitching tandem in baseball. It became even more interesting when both lived up to their billing and mowed down the Yankees to win the first two games in Arizona.
That put Brenly in position to decide whether to bring either, or both, back on normal rest for two starts each, or try to squeeze a third out of one if the series went seven games.
After the Yankees won Game 3 behind Clemens, Brenly decided to go for three and tabbed Schilling as his man. Sitting deep in the bowels of Yankee Stadium just 90 minutes before gametime Wednesday, someone asked Brenly whether he was ready to face his critics if he turned out to be wrong.
''Does it matter?'' he joked. ''And if I say I'm not ready, will you back off?''
Sometime after midnight, the question was no longer a moot one. Trying to save Schilling for a possible Game 7 start, Brenly pulled him aside in the dugout after the seventh inning, told him, ''You're already a hero,'' and gave the ball to closer Byung-Hyun Kim to begin the eighth.
For a few minutes more, Brenly looked like even more of a genius. Kim struck out four of the first five Yankees he faced. Not only was Arizona about to lock up Game 4, but Schilling, after throwing just 88 pitches on the night, would be fresher than Brenly could have hoped for if the series went the distance.
Then BAM! Tino Martinez redirected one of Kim's sidearm deliveries over the center field wall in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game.
And another BAM! Derek Jeter sliced another of Kim's offerings over the short porch in right in the bottom of the 10th for the win.
The change of fortunes was so swift it took an entire city's breath away. But that wasn't all. When Brenly took his seat in the interview room, he appeared to be hyperventilating.
''It was an easy decision to take him out,'' Brenly said of Schilling, ''considering he was starting on three days' rest. We had a lead and we insisted all along we would go to Kim for two innings if necessary to try to close out the game. It just didn't work out that way.''
But that wasn't an accident.
Counting Wednesday's no-decision, Schilling is 4-0 in the postseason. Three of those wins were complete games, in no small part because Brenly knows his bullpen could be described -- kindly -- as dicey. Two innings from Kim is asking a lot, three is requesting a miracle.
And as impressive as Schilling looked in Game 4 on three days' rest, there's little reason to think the right-hander couldn't have gone the distance. With another day's rest, his chances of completing what he started in Game 5 would have been considerable. Now we'll never know.
''Certainly,'' Brenly replied when asked whether he pulled Schilling in the seventh in anticipation of a Game 7 start. ''That entered into it somewhat.
''But once again, we had the lead, we had six outs left to go and that's the way we hoped it would work out.
''Unfortunately,'' he said, drawing a deep breath, ''it didn't.''
Jim Litke is the national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us