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20 years ago today: Kim: Young, Ill...

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Welp.

Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

To be honest, this is the first game of the 2001 World Series that I remember, not least because of it being Halloween. We had the game on in the living-room, and at that point the TV was right by the front door. Virtually every trick or treater that came past, the parents would ask, “What’s the score?” and we’d give them an update. For much of the game, it was a pitcher’s duel, with Curt Schilling and future Diamondback Orlando Hernandez matching each other into the seventh inning. Then Arizona pulled ahead in the eighth, and turned to young closer Byung-Hyun Kim in the bottom of the ninth. It did not go well, as Tino Martinez smacked a game-tying homer with the Yankees down to their final out.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As mentioned, it had been a hard-fought game to that point. After his success in Game 1, the Diamondbacks turned to Schilling on short rest, but he seemed entirely unfazed by that. It helped that he was efficient, needing only 88 pitches to get through seven innings, holding the Yankees to three hits and a walk, while still striking out nine batters. He retired 14 of the first 15 hitters he faced. However, the other had given New York the lead in the third inning, as Shane Spencer took Schilling deep. But El Duque was putting up zeroes too, albeit with more traffic. He loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first, though Matt Williams and Steve Finley couldn’t give Arizona the lead.

In the fourth, Mark Grace, batting in the eight hole, tied things up at one with a solo home-run of his own. slamming a pitch from Hernandez into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. That was all Arizona would manage off the New York starter. He was eventually lifted with one out in the seventh, after walking Grace and hitting Damian Miller. Hernandez was replaced my Mike Stanton, who got Tony Womack to hit into an inning-ending double-play. The score remained tied at one through the end of the seventh. Schilling escaped a jam in the bottom of that frame, after the first two Yankees reached. But Jorge Posada also hit into a double-play, and Curt got Justice to strike out, ending the starter’s night.

Arizona then took the lead in the eighth. With one out, Luis Gonzalez singled, and Erubiel Durazo doubled Gonzo in for a 2-1 lead, taking third on the throw. He was replaced by speedy pinch-runner Midre Cummings, who came home on a ground-out by Williams, giving Arizona a 3-1 lead. Bob Brenly turned to Kim for a six-out save. Multiple innings were not something new to Kim - he had 19 appearances in the regular season of six or more outs. But few of those came after he became the regular closer at the end of June. and he had just two saves involving more than four outs. Still, the eighth went perfectly, Kim striking out the side in order.

The ninth? Well, the first two outs did, around a single to Paul O’Neill. But then Kim was ambushed by Martinez, and it was a whole new ball-game. That game on Kim’s 30th pitch of the night, and he threw 15 more to get out of the inning. But Brenly kept Kim in there, and on his 61st pitch of the night, Derek Jeter ended a nine-pitch at-bat with a walk-off homer over the short porch in right field. That length wasn’t quite as unprecedented as it might have felt. In the regular season, Kim had outings of 52, 53 and 60 pitches. But none of those pitches came after blowing a World Series game in Yankee Stadium. If the eventual result of the series had been different, the decision to leave Kim in might be seen as pivotal.

However, it is certainly worth noting that the Arizona offense squandered a slew of chances to score, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. A hit in any one of those would potentially have scored another run, rendering Martinez’s home-run an irrelevance. Over the entire season, the 2001 Yankees were 20-8 when allowing exactly three runs - including the clincher of both the Division Series and Championship Series. So you’d be hard pushed to say the D-backs offense did enough to merit victory on the night. Though, of course, Game 7 showed that three runs could be just enough - when you have Schilling and Randy Johnson doing virtually all the pitching.

But, again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For, with the series now tied at two and effectively a best of three, there was more drama to come in Game 5...