Pregame introductions before game one of the MLB World Series game between the Yankees and Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix. Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
[It's the tenth anniversary of the World Series between the Diamondbacks and the Yankees. The SnakePit wasn't around for it, but if we had been, this is what our recaps of the games would probably have been like...]
Four-time champions? They're vastly over-rated... The Yankees, who had won 16 of their last 17 World Series games coming into this series, were made to look very ordinary tonight by Curt Schilling, who gave up only three hits in seven innings. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks took advantage of some Yankee gaffes, scored four runs in the third to break a 1-1 tie, and tacked on four more in the next inning. That ensured the first ever World Series game at Bank One Ballpark was a happy one for the crowd of 49,646 in attendance, the largest crowd ever.
Didn't seem that way early, as Schilling hit Derek Jeter with his fourth pitch of the evening, and then Bernie Williams doubled down the left-field line, with Jeter scoring all the way from first, with Luis Gonzalez bobbling the ball in the corner. You could almost hear the Yankees putting the champagne on ice. Not so fast, thank you very much. Our second batter, Craig Counsell, had only four home-runs in the entire regular season, but after his go-ahead three-run shot in Game 3 against Atlanta, he went deep for the second time with another crucial shot. "I think it was basically right down the middle. I think I put a good swing on it," said Counsell. No kidding.
The single biggest play in this victory was Gonzalez's two-run shot in the third, worth 16% to our chances, since it broke the tie. Mike Mussina hit Tony Womack; Counsell bunted him over, but Luis then rendered the exercise a bit pointless. Mussina missed his spot badly, leaving a pitch down and in, to Gonzo's happy place, and it went into the right-field bleachers. Maybe it'll get him hitting again, in what has been a frustrating first couple of rounds for Luis, where has hit .237. "The thing is not to show panic," he said. "You can't show frustration. It might be eating me up inside, but if you show that to the other team, you're beat. They've got you."
Tonight, however, it was Mussina who was got. Before the inning had ended, two more hits, a walk and a two-base error after the Yankees' right-fielder clanked a fly-ball of his glove,had given Arizona a four-run lead. That was it for Mussina: he had worked at least four innings in 73 of his previous 74 starts, going back to August 1999, but was done after three this evening. Reliever Randy Choate fared no better in the fourth, as the dose of runs was repeated, with five consecutive Diamondbacks reaching with two outs, helped by another New York error. Mark Grace had a twio-run double to cap things off, and Arizona were 9-1 up.
That was roughly eight times the lead Schilling needed. After a two-out double in the second, Curt retired 16 of the next 18 batters faced, and no Yankee got past first-base. At 102 pitches through seven, he was well within his limits, but there was no point over-stretching him, especially with the suggestion that he may well come back and start Game 4 in New York,. "The fact that we were able to keep down his pitch count will certainly make it a lot easier to bring him back on short rest.," commented Bob Brenly afterward, though he woukdn't be drawn beyond that.. Curt was...well, Curt: "I'm not possibly available. I'm available. This is the World Series."
That's good to hear, because Schilling, continued to be, literally, unbeatable. In his four starts this campaign, he is 4-0 with three complete games, while his October ERA rose to the terrible heights of 0.79 after tonight's outing. Oh,. and over those 34 innings, he has struck out 38 batters and walked just five. He had a very simple approach to tonight's game: "It's just one inning, one out, one pitch at a time. You're playing for all the marbles... You just go hitter to hitter, pitch to pitch and just focus on what you're doing and your pitches."
After he left the game, Mike Morgan - making his first World Series appearance at the age of 42 - and Greg Swindell came in for some light mop-up work. The former faced the minimum while the latter did walk a batter, but neither man allowed a hit. Certainly the Yankees seemed to have largely given up by that point, and the Diamondbacks didn't do much against the New York bullpen after the departure of Choate. We managed one base-runner after the fourth inning, with Sterling Hitchcock dealing impressively, striking out six Arizona hitters over three shutout frames. Fortunately, it really didn't matter much by then.
Yep, none. The only D-back in negative territory was Schilling at the plate, with -4.9%. This is what happens when every other D-back bar Womack had a hit. And even he reached base to lead-off the third, when the score was tied, so got +4% for that.. Can't get your World Series off to a better start than with every single player involved making a positive contribution. Comment of the night goes to, who else but Curt Schilling.
"The Yankees are who they are but that does not mean they are going beat us. We have a job to do and we deserve to be here just like they do."
Damn straight. Now it's time for Randy Johnson to step up, and see what he can do against Andy Pettitte at Bank One, when Game Two starts tomorrow night. I think Arizona have certainly shown that they are not going to be overawed, even with New York holding a 26-0 lead in World Series titles.