Diamondbacks end Yankee dynasty

Posted: Monday, November 05, 2001

PHOENIX -- The final comeback belonged to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it was the greatest of all.

Luis Gonzalez hit an RBI single to cap a two-run rally off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Arizona stunned the New York Yankees 3-2 in Game 7 of the World Series on Sunday night.

The Yankees were only two outs from their fourth straight World Series title when it all fell apart.

Tony Womack tied it with an RBI double and, after Craig Counsell was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Gonzalez blooped a soft single to center field.

Rivera, who had saved 23 straight postseason games, could do nothing but watch the ball fall in to end the Yankees' dynasty.

What began as a November duel between Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens climaxed with the Diamondbacks winning the title in just their fourth year of existence. It was the fastest rise in history, breaking the mark of five years set by the 1997 Florida Marlins.

The Diamondbacks did it by bouncing back from two of the toughest losses in Series history. They dropped Games 4 and 5 at Yankee Stadium, blowing two-run leads in the bottom of the ninth both times.

Randy Johnson, at 38, earned the victory in relief. He also won Game 6 on Saturday night, a 15-2 romp.

Johnson and many other Arizona old-timers such as Mark Grace, Matt Williams and Mike Morgan won their first championship ring.

The Yankees, the team that would not give up, nearly won it for the city that would not give in. A highly motivated bunch, they showed extra resolve after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

The Yankees were a home run swing away from elimination in the first round against Oakland, and lost the first two games at Bank One Ballpark.

But back in the desert, they looked lost.

Alfonso Soriano's solo homer off Schilling put New York ahead 2-1 in the eighth. Rivera, the most dominant reliever in postseason history, set down the Diamondbacks in the bottom half.

Then in the ninth, Arizona rallied.

Grace led off with a single and Rivera threw away Damian Miller's bunt for an error, putting runners at first and second.

Jay Bell bunted into a force play at third, but Womack lined a tying double to the right-field corner. Counsell, who scored the winning run in Game 7 with Florida in 1997, was hit by a pitch.

With the infield in, Gonzalez hit it hard enough for a game-winning single that set off fireworks, pounding music and deafening cheers.

The Yankees fell to 5-6 overall in deciding Game 7s of the Series.

Schilling was nearly untouchable at the start. The first pitcher to start three games in a Series since Minnesota's Jack Morris in 1991, he once again showed no ill effects from working on three days' rest.

Schilling allowed only one hitter to reach through six innings, and even that guy did not last long on the bases. Paul O'Neill, playing his final game before retiring, was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in the first.

But given a 1-0 lead in the sixth on Danny Bautista's RBI double, Schilling gave it back.

A strange wind started swirling through the ballpark to start the top of the seventh. Maybe it was a precursor of what was to come because moments later, Arizona had blown its edge.

Schilling retired 16 straight hitters before slumping Derek Jeter led off with a single and O'Neill followed with a single in front of center fielder Steve Finley.

Up came Bernie Williams, and Yankees manager Joe Torre had no intention to bunt with his No. 3 hitter. Besides, Williams has not had a sacrifice since 1996.

With Miguel Batista and Brian Anderson warming in the Arizona bullpen, Williams grounded into a force play that left runners at the corners.

Tino Martinez tied it with an RBI single, and Schilling escaped further trouble by getting two fly balls. Finley ran a long way into the right-center field gap to track down Shane Spencer's drive that ended the inning.

Clemens, pitching the biggest game of his great career, worked out of several early jams. The Diamondbacks caught up to him in the sixth after Finley led off with a single.

Bautista was next, and many people thought the man with five RBIs in Saturday's 15-2 romp would bunt. Arizona manager Bob Brenly once again crossed up his critics and let Bautista swing away, and it worked.

Bautista hit a drive into the left-center gap, and Clemens simply stood on the mound with his right hand on hip, watching the play unfold.

Finley scored easily, and Bautista was nailed at third on a fast, acrobatic relay by -- who else? -- Jeter.

Clemens, prone to being too pumped-up for big games, kept himself calm on the mound in the early going. Composed, he talked to catcher Jorge Posada before big pitches and listened to pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre's advice in the dugout.

The Rocket was more revved in other ways. He dropped a toss at first base while tripping over the bag for an error, and later swung so hard that he stumbled across home plate.

Clemens was pulled after 6 1-3 innings with 10 strikeouts. He left without a Game 7 victory, the only thing missing on his Hall of Fame resume.

The usually steady Yankees looked shaky in the field, again. Soriano and Clemens made errors and the noisy crowd seemed to cause confusion on a couple other balls.

New York made seven errors against Arizona after committing a total of only five in the past three World Series.

Most everyone at the park seemed excited, and a bit edgy.

Asked before the game to describe his team's mood, Torre said, ''There's a lot of nervousness.''

The three dozen fans in the pool area beyond the right-center field wall spent the game perched on the fence. With so much at stake, hardly any of them dipped in the water, even though they paid $7,000.

Notes: Yankees outfielder David Justice played in the previous two Game 7s and lost both times, with Atlanta in 1991 and Cleveland in 1997.

He singled as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. ... All 50 players on the rosters appeared in at least one Series game.



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