D-Backs rally to capture Series

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 5, 2001

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Mariano Rivera was on the mound, the Yankees’ clubhouse was being set up for a champagne celebration and the Arizona Diamondbacks were in trouble.

Monday, November 05, 2001

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PHOENIX – Mariano Rivera was on the mound, the Yankees’ clubhouse was being set up for a champagne celebration and the Arizona Diamondbacks were in trouble.

”We were done,” Arizona’s Mark Grace said.

Yet in a World Series full of late twists, David Dellucci thought there might be one more in Game 7. He said so in the Diamondbacks’ dugout Sunday night.

”I looked over at Grace and said, ”Man, it’s time for us to create our own magic,” he said.

Did they ever.

In a stunning comeback, Luis Gonzalez blooped an RBI single that capped a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning off Rivera, and the Diamondbacks beat New York 3-2 to win their first championship.

”I wouldn’t move on the bench. I wanted to get up and watch for the whole inning, but I was playing the luck seat,” Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling said.

”It seemed pretty surreal to me, watching this all develop,” fellow ace Randy Johnson said.

Schilling and Johnson wound up as co-MVPs, accounting for all four Arizona victories.

The Yankees were only two outs from their fourth straight championship and fifth in six years when it suddenly fell apart. Against the most dominant postseason reliever ever, no less.

Tony Womack tied it with an RBI double and Craig Counsell was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Gonzalez, choking up on the bat for the first time this year, hit a soft single over drawn-in shortstop Derek Jeter.

”When you’re a little kid, you think about the seventh game of the World Series,” Gonzalez said. ”It didn’t matter how the hit came.”

Rivera had saved 23 straight postseason games.

”That’s baseball,” Rivera said. ”There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Arizona’s Bob Brenly became the first manager to win the championship in his first year since Ralph Houk did it with the Yankees in 1961.

”I felt that we outplayed them,” Brenly said.

The Diamondbacks outscored New York 37-14 and held the Yankees to a .183 batting average, the lowest ever in a seven-game series.

The home team won every game, just the third time that has ever happened.

The Yankees were trying to become the third team in history to win four titles in a row. The Bronx Bombers did it from 1936-39 and from 1949-53.

”We’re obviously disappointed in the result, but not the effort,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

When the Yankees were close to winning, some people began preparing the clubhouse for a celebration. Owner George Steinbrenner threw them out.

”I’m proud of my team. We played our hearts out. It was a very tough loss. I will be a gracious loser,” he said. ”We’ll be back. Mark that down. We’ll be back.

”I’m not a good loser,” he said.

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to console Steinbrenner.

”We can’t win every year,” the Yankees’ No. 1 fan said. ”They did the city proud, George.”

What began as a November duel between 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 Marlins. That Florida team was the last to win when trailing in the ninth inning of a Game 7, doing it against Cleveland.

The Diamondbacks bounced 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.

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

Johnson was 3-0, making him the first pitcher to win three times in a Series since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich in 1968. The Big Unit won a record five times in this postseason and Schilling won four.

”We went through sports’ greatest dynasty to win our first World Series,” Schilling said.

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.

”That was the greatest Game 7 ever,” said Giuliani, who went to the Diamondbacks locker room, as did Torre, to offer congratulations.

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 Dellucci pinch-ran for him. Damian Miller bunted and Rivera tried for a forceout, hurrying his throw and making an error that put 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.

Gonzalez’s hit sent Bell jumping into Matt Williams’ arms with the winning run, and set off fireworks, pounding music and deafening cheers at Bank One Ballpark. The on-field trophy celebration was still going more than an hour later.

”Party at Mark Grace’s hour, everyone’s invited,” Grace said in the locker room.

Rivera had pitched six scoreless innings in the Series before Arizona won.

”That was the one guy we wanted to stay away from the whole World Series,” Gonzalez said. ”We got him the one time it counted.”

The Yankees fell to 5-6 overall in deciding Game 7s of the Series. They had not lost a postseason game they led after eight innings since the 1947 Series against Brooklyn.

Schilling, again pitching on three days’ rest, allowed only one runner for six innings. Paul O’Neill, playing his last game before retiring at 38, doubled for that lone hit but was thrown out trying for a triple.

Danny Bautista hit an RBI double off Clemens in the sixth. The Yankees tied it in the seventh when Jeter singled and scored on a single by Tino Martinez.

Clemens was pulled after 6 1-3 innings, striking out 10. Schilling left in the eighth, with Brenly telling him, ”You’re my hero.”