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WORLD SERIES GAME 7 / Arizona 3, New York 2 | ROSS
NEWHAN / ON BASEBALL

Johnson and Schilling Paint All the Corners

November 05, 2001|Ross Newhan

PHOENIX — All of that business about Aura and Mystique? Turns out one was disguised as Curt Schilling, the other Randy Johnson.

Whether they are the most dominant right and left pitching combination since Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax will be left to other analysts.

What more needs to be said than this:

Together, they carried the Arizona Diamondbacks to Game 7 of the World Series, and together they helped end the championship reign of the New York Yankees.

How appropriate that in the last game of a season that began in April and ended in November, a season in which the Diamondbacks had no starting stability beyond the remarkable 43-12 contribution of Schilling and Johnson, there they were again, combining to restrict New York--one as a starter and the other as a reliever--to two runs, building the foundation for an improbable ninth-inning rally against the peerless Mariano Rivera and a 3-2 victory, ending the Yankee run of three straight Series titles, touching off an Old West celebration for the four-year-old Diamondbacks and earning one more accolade for the firm of Schilling and Johnson.

As a crowd of 49,589 went wild, the two Arizona pitchers were named co-most valuable players of the Series.

Was there any doubt once the Diamondbacks did to the Yankees what the Yankees had done to the Diamondbacks in the ninth inning of successive games at Yankee Stadium?

All Schilling did Sunday night was give Arizona 71/3 strong innings, delivering 103 pitches in his second consecutive start on three days rest.

Said pitching coach Bob Welch: "Curt's been operating on fumes for the last month, let alone tonight. He's been battling for weeks, and he just keep going, going and going."

All Johnson did was come out of the bullpen and retire the four Yankees he faced, ultimately gaining the win less than 24 hours after he had gained the win as the starter in Game 6, making 107 pitches in seven innings.

Said catcher Damian Miller: "It was amazing. Randy threw better tonight than he did last night."

There it was, one last night of feeding off each other as they had all season, as Johnson finally acknowledged--the Big Unit raising the intensity bar for Schilling and Schilling--"the man never met a microphone he didn't like," Johnson said with a laugh--helping his self-contained teammate open up, become almost effusive, a large part of the clubhouse in more ways than one.

Both, in this penultimate moment, would insist that this hasn't been a two-man pitching staff or team, that they needed all 25 to go the distance, but it wouldn't have been possible without them.

In the postseason alone, Schilling was 4-0 with a 1.12 earned-run average, set records for starts (six), innings (481/3) and strikeouts (56), and tied the record with three complete games. Johnson set a record for postseason wins with six and was 3-0 with a 1.04 ERA in the Series.

Did he have any physical problems coming back to pitch in relief only hours after starting? Was he sore?

"Sore?" he said incredulously. "It's all adrenaline. This is what we all play for. I was telling my wife today, you go to spring training in February, now it's November, an endless season of ups and downs, and then two teams get to the World Series, and it's fitting that we're playing the Yankees because if we're going to be the world champions we want to beat the best, and that's what we did."

Likewise, Schilling said he had no problems coming back again on three days rest--he became the first pitcher to make three Series starts since Minnesota's Jack Morris in 1991--and knowing Johnson was in the bullpen in the latter innings "made it a lot easier mentally."

Schilling threw six shutout innings on one hit before three Yankee singles tied the score in the seventh and an Alphonso Soriano homer on a hanging split finger gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the eighth. Manager Bob Brenly--in another decision that might have been questioned had the Diamondback rally not made it academic--allowed Schilling to bat leading off the seventh in a 1-1 tie and then pitch the eighth.

"He was throwing great, his velocity was good, his location was good," Brenly said of the decision. "I asked Damian, 'Is he OK, do you see any signs he's losing anything?' And Damian said, 'No, he has good enough stuff to go back out there."'

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