Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2

Monday, November 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ The final World Series comeback belonged to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it was the greatest of all.

Luis Gonzalez hit an RBI single to cap a two-run rally off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Arizona stunned the New York Yankees 3-2 in Game 7 on Sunday night.

``We went through sports' greatest dynasty to win our first World Series,'' said pitcher Curt Schilling, who shared the MVP award with fellow ace Randy Johnson.

The Yankees were only two outs from their fourth straight championship and fifth in six years when it suddenly fell apart.

Tony Womack tied it with an RBI double and, after Craig Counsell was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out, Gonzalez blooped a soft single to center field.

Rivera, who had saved 23 straight postseason games, could do nothing but watch the ball fall in to end the Yankees' run.

``That's baseball,'' Rivera said. ``There's nothing I can do about it.''

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.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner sounded the same tone.

``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.

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.

Randy 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 five times in this postseason.

Johnson, Schilling and several Arizona old-timers, including Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Matt Williams and Mike Morgan, won their first championship ring.

``They have a great ballclub over there, but this team was relentless,'' Gonzalez said. ``This is probably going to go down as one of the best World Series ever.''

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 in the Series in which the home team won every game, just the third time that has ever happened.

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 New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who went to the Diamondbacks locker room to offer his congratulations them. ``As a Yankees fan, I wish it turned out differently.''

The Yankees were a home run swing away from elimination in the first round against Oakland, and lost the first two games at Bank One Ballpark.

But back in the desert, they looked lost.

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 Rivera threw away Damian Miller's bunt for an error, putting 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.

With the infield in, Gonzalez hit it hard enough for a game-winning single that set off fireworks, pounding music and deafening cheers.

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.

Schilling was nearly untouchable at the start. The first pitcher to start three games in a Series since Minnesota's Jack Morris in 1991, he once again showed no ill effects from working on three days' rest.

Schilling allowed only one hitter to reach through six innings, and even that guy did not last long on the bases. Paul O'Neill, playing his final game before retiring, was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in the first.

But given a 1-0 lead in the sixth on Danny Bautista's RBI double, Schilling gave it back.

A strange wind started swirling through the ballpark to start the top of the seventh. Maybe it was a precursor of what was to come because moments later, Arizona had blown its edge.

Schilling retired 16 straight hitters before slumping Derek Jeter led off with a single and O'Neill followed with a single in front of center fielder Steve Finley.

One out later, Tino Martinez tied it with an RBI single.

Clemens, pitching the biggest game of his great career, worked out of several early jams. The Diamondbacks caught up to him in the sixth after Finley led off with a single.

Bautista was next, and many people thought the man with five RBIs in Saturday's 15-2 romp would bunt. Brenly once again crossed up his critics and let Bautista swing away, and it worked.

Bautista hit a drive into the left-center gap, and Clemens simply stood on the mound with his right hand on hip, watching the play unfold.

Clemens was pulled after 6 1-3 innings with 10 strikeouts. He left without a Game 7 victory, the only thing missing on his Hall of Fame resume.

New York made eight errors against Arizona after committing a total of only five in the past three World Series.

Most everyone at the park seemed excited, and a bit edgy.

The three dozen fans in the pool area beyond the right-center field wall spent most of the game perched on the fence. With so much at stake, hardly any of them dipped in the water, even though they paid $7,000 to rent the space.