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WORLD SERIES GAME 7 / Arizona 3, New York 2

Diamond Rings

Game 7: Gonzalez's bases-loaded single in ninth caps Arizona's rally against Yankees for first World Series title. Johnson wins his third game.

November 05, 2001|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHOENIX — Anybody up for Game 8?

With the kind of entertainment the Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees have provided the last nine days, it's a shame the 97th World Series had to end.

But end it finally did and in a most dramatic fashion, with Luis Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks turning what was already considered one of the best World Series in recent history into an epic Sunday night.

Gonzalez's bases-loaded, broken-bat single over a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the ninth inning off impenetrable closer Mariano Rivera capped a two-run rally that gave the Diamondbacks a stunning 3-2 victory over the Yankees in Game 7, sending a Bank One Ballpark crowd of 49,589 into delirium and giving the Diamondbacks a World Series championship in only their fourth year in existence.

Tony Womack keyed the ninth-inning rally with a score-tying RBI double, pitcher Curt Schilling gutted out 71/3 innings on three days' rest, and Randy Johnson, who pitched seven innings to win Game 6, threw 11/3 hitless innings to gain the victory in relief, his third victory of this Series. Schilling and Johnson were named Series co-most valuable players.

"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Gonzalez said. "I didn't sleep for the last week and a half, and I probably won't sleep for another week and a half now.... Stepping up to the plate in the ninth inning, that's what everybody dreams about, being in the key situation to drive in the winning run of the World Series against one of the best relievers in all of baseball.... It could not have finished in a more dramatic fashion."

Gonzalez became only the sixth player in baseball history to end Game 7 of a World Series with a walk-off hit, joining Larry Gardner of the Boston Red Sox over the New York Giants in 1912, Earl McNeely of the Washington Senators over the Giants in 1924, Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Yankees in 1960, Gene Larkin of the Minnesota Twins over the Atlanta Braves in 1991 and Edgar Renteria of the Florida Marlins over the Cleveland Indians in 1997.

"This is unbelievable. It hasn't sunk in yet. It happened so fast," Arizona pitcher Brian Anderson said amid a champagne-soaked clubhouse and a celebration that went on for hours after the game. "The change of emotion was so quick."

That's the way it has been this entire Series. The Diamondbacks thought they had the Yankees beat in Games 4 and 5, taking two-run leads into the bottom of the ninth inning, but Tino Martinez tied Game 4 and Scott Brosius tied Game 5 with two-out, two-run home runs, and the Yankees won both games in extra innings to take a 3-2 lead in the Series.

The Diamondbacks showed their resiliency, rebounding with a 15-2 pounding of the Yankees in Game 6, but the Yankees appeared well on their way to their fourth consecutive championship when rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano golfed an 0-and-2 split-fingered fastball from Schilling over the wall in left for a home run that gave New York a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth Sunday night.

"I was crushed when he hit it, because I thought it was a good pitch," Schilling said. "Going down, 2-1, at that point of the game and with that bullpen, it's not usually the recipe for winning."

That's because lurking in the Yankee bullpen was Rivera, who was 6-0 with an 0.70 earned-run average and 24 saves in 51 career postseason appearances. The cut-fastball specialist, who hadn't blown a playoff save since the 1997 American League division series against Cleveland, dominated in the eighth inning, striking out three of four batters.

But Mark Grace, the Chicago Cub cast-off who waited 14 seasons for a chance to play in the World Series, led off the bottom of the ninth with his third hit, a single to center. David Dellucci came on to pinch-run for Grace, and Damian Miller dropped a sacrifice bunt attempt toward the mound.

Rivera threw wildly to second base, off of shortstop Derek Jeter's glove and into center field, allowing Arizona to put runners on first and second. Pinch-hitter Jay Bell bunted to the mound, and Rivera forced Dellucci at third for the first out, giving the Yankees a little breathing room.

But Womack, Arizona's leadoff batter, stroked a 2-and-2 pitch down the line in right for an RBI double to tie the score, 2-2, and put runners on second and third. Rivera went after Craig Counsell but hit him with a pitch to load the bases.

Up stepped Gonzalez, hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts. New York brought its infield in, and Rivera jammed Gonzalez with one of his patented cutters.

But Gonzalez fisted a looper that cleared Jeter's head and landed about three feet beyond the infield dirt, scoring Bell with the winning run, sparking a wild Diamondback dogpile between first and second base and giving Arizona its first-ever championship in the four major professional sports.

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