Today’s Postseason Series From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is the 2001 World Series. Anyone 30 and over remembers the backdrop. The terrorist attack on September 11 was burning in our minds. The Yankees were the three time defending champs and had just knocked off the 116-win Mariners in the ALCS in five games. The Arizona Diamondbacks were in just their fourth season of existence, but because of aggressive trades and signings were already in their second postseason and first World Series. The Yankees were led by home growns Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, along with veterans Roger Clemens, David Justice, Mike Mussina, and Paul O’Neill. The Diamondbacks were going to go as far as two particular arms could carry them. In 2000 they traded a bag of used baseballs to Philadelphia for Curt Schilling. Two years earlier they went out and signed Randy Johnson away from Houston. These two were the cornerstones of an otherwise so-so team (in the games Johnson and Schilling didn’t start they were 40-54).
Game 1 was out in the desert featuring Mussina versus Schilling on the hill. The Yankees got the scoring going right away when Bernie Williams doubled in a run. Craig Counsell tied the game in the bottom half with a solo shot. It remained tied until the bottom of the third. Mussina drilled Tony Womack with a pitch and after a stupid bunt Luis Gonzalez homered. Then Reggie Sanders singled and Steve Finley reached on an error, followed by a Matt Williams sac fly. After Mark Grace was intentionally walked Damian Miller doubled in Finley, making the score 5-1. That was all for Mussina as Randy Choate replaced him in the third. He got the first two out, but then Gonzalez doubled, he stupidly walked Sanders intentionally Finley singled, Williams reached on an error, and Mark Grace doubled and the game was essentially over. Schilling questionably went seven innings (and 102 pitches) and the Diamondbacks took Game 1 9-1. Game 2 featured Pettitte and Johnson to start. Danny Bautista got the Diamondbacks on the board with an RBI double in the second. It remained 1-0 until the bottom of the seventh. Gonzalez was hit by a pitch and after a ground out and a Bautista single Matt Williams stepped up to face Pettitte. Williams hit an 0-1 pitch over the left field wall for a three run homerun and a 4-0 lead. Game over. Johnson went the distance to give the D-backs a 2-0 series lead as the series shifted to The Big Apple.
Game 3 will long be remembered for a reason beyond baseball. First, President George W. Bush went out to the mound and put some velocity on the first pitch in a memorable moment, regardless of your political views. The game was pretty nondescript as Clemens and Rivera shutdown the Arizona bats and despite Brian Anderson’s best efforts Mike Morgan couldn’t get out of a two out jam and the Yankees won 2-1, making the series 2-1. Game 4 was on Halloween night. Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenley questionably started Curt Schilling. This was not questionable because he started him, but if you wanted to start him on short rest, why did you have him throw three meaningless innings (it was 9-1, remember) in Game 1? Anyway, the Yankees got a solo shot from Shane Spencer in the third and Grace immediately tied it with a solo shot of his own to tie it in the fourth. It remained that way until the eighth when Erubiel Durazo doubled in Luis Gonzalez with one out and Matt Williams got him in with a ground out. Then, well, then wow. Brenley brought in closer Byung-Hyun Kim in the eighth. What people forget about this game is that Kim struck out the side in the eighth. What everyone remembers came with two out in the ninth. With Paul O’Neill on first and two out, Tino Martinez launched the first pitch he saw into the right field seats to tie the game. After the Diamondbacks went scoreless in the tenth, Kim – out for his third full inning of work – got the first two to fly out harmlessly. Right around then the clock turn midnight. It was officially November 1. Derek Jeter was down in the count 0-2. He took a ball, then fouled a couple off. After two more balls the count was full. He fouled the next on off. Then he drove a flyball to right field. It cleared the wall and Mr. November was born.
In Game 5 the Diamondbacks got to Mussina homeruns in the fifth from Finley and Rod Barajas. It remained that way until the ninth. Kim came out to redeem himself from the previous night and all started out alright pitching around a leadoff double to have Posada on third with two outs. And it happened again. This time is was Scott Brosius who hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall to tie the game again. I still remember Kim in tears as he left the field. The Yankees won it in the 12th to take a 3-2 series lead going back to Arizona. Game 6 provided more questions for Brenley (more on this in a bit), as this game was one for long. Arizona got a run in the first and three in the second before the floodgates opened in the third. Pettitte, already on shaky ground, walked the leadoff guy and then gave up a double to Williams, chasing him from the game. Jay Witasick wasn’t gasoline – he was nitroglycerin. Four straight singles plated three more runs, the a Tony Womack strikeout (not as big of an accomplishment as you would think) and a Bautista single, a Gonzalez double, a Greg Colbrunn single and Williams double (second of the inning) and it was 12-0. They added three more in the fourth for a 15-0 lead. Now, with a 15-0 lead, major league teams don’t blow those too often (even the Tribe’s big comeback was 14). Why was Brenley keeping Johnson in, knowing full well that will “all hands on deck” was going to be the rule for Game 7, for seven innings and 104 pitches? He threw 48 of them when the game was 15-0. Those 48 could’ve come in awfully handy on Sunday, Bob. Anyway, the game ended 15-2 and we got a Game 7. Schilling took the hill against Roger Clemens and they lived up to the hype. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth when Danny Bautista doubled in Steve Finley for the game’s first run. The Yankees got the Schilling the next half inning when Tino Martinez singled in Jeter to tie it. Then the next inning Alfonso Soriano led off with a homerun to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. One hitter later Schilling was pulled for Miguel Batista. And one hitter later Batista was pulled – for Randy Johnson. Johnson threw 17 pitches and retired all four that he faced. There has been a lot of talk this postseason on how to handle a pitching staff. Brenley’s decisions should’ve gotten a lot more scrutiny than they did. Mariano Rivera came out for the ninth to do what he always did – lock down the game.
It didn’t go that easy. Mark Grace led off with a single. Then a horrible Damian Miller bunt (not just strategic, but also in execution) came right back to Rivera, whose throw pulled Jeter off the bag and sailed into center field. Jay Bell pinch hit then bunted again, but this time Rivera made the throw to third to get the lead runner (smdh). With one out Tony Womack worked a 2-2 count then somehow lined an inside pitch down the right field line (I’m serious; that pitch was in the batters box) for a double, scoring the tying run. Then Craig Counsell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Then, in a justifiable/questionable move Torre kept the infield in (one could argue about keeping the middle of the infield in double play depth, but I think it’s a trivial call). Then on an 0-1 pitch, Luis Gonzalez blooped a ball over the pulled-in infield for the game winner.
A couple of side notes: One, you probably noticed I didn’t mention a whole lot of Derek Jeter. That’s because while he’ll be remembered for “Mr. November”, he was also just 4-27 in the series. For Mariano Rivera that was the second and final blown save of his postseason career. The other? Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS when Sandy Alomar homered in the eighth in Cleveland. And since I like connections, Matt Williams was on that 1997 team. In that World Series he homered in Game 4 of the World Series. In the 1989 World Series he homered in Game 3. And in the 2001 World Series he homered Game 2. He is the only player to homer in three different World Series for three different teams.
Finally because of the end result, a 22-year old kid from South Korea was able to let go of a couple of awful postseason moments. How did he recover? In 2002 he made 66 appearances for Arizona, recording 36 saves, a 2.04 ERA, a 2.69 FIP, and his lone All-Star appearance.