Sunday, November 04, 2001

Snakes bite back




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        PHOENIX — This time, the New York Yankees contemplated their last out in need of a 13-run homer. This time, there were no magical moments, only overkill.

        This was the comic relief in a heretofore classic World Series, a laugher beyond ludicrous, a Brobdingnagian blowout. The championship of baseball will be determined tonight because the Arizona Diamondbacks converted their frustrations into fuel in Saturday's Game 6, crushing the Yankees, 15-2.

        The World Series is all even but has rarely been more odd. After three excruciating one-run losses in New York, the Diamondbacks returned home on a rampage. Arizona starter Randy Johnson — notoriously bad with the bat — scored as many runs (two) as he allowed Saturday night. New York manager Joe Torre emptied his bench before the Yankees could dent a 15-0 deficit.

        Not since the Garden of Eden have Snakes treated a Big Apple so shabbily. Not since 1960 had a team held a 15-run lead in a World Series game. Never has a team banged out so many hits (22) in a World Series game as the Diamondbacks did against Andy Pettitte and his overmatched mop-up men.

        The Diamondbacks pounded Pettitte as if he were a left-handed pinata. What they did to Jay Witasick is what butchers do to beef.

        “That was a hungry bunch of hitters we sent up to the plate tonight,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said.

        “If you give them an inch,” Torre said, “they're going to knock your brains out.”

        Witasick, who replaced Pettitte during the Diamondbacks' eight-run third inning, allowed 10 hits in 1 1/3 innings. His assignment was to save the better part of Torre's bullpen for Game 7. His effect was to provide Byung-Hyun Kim with a pitcher he could pity.

        Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill volunteered to pitch as the game got out of hand. Torre might have used him, too, had he been able to pinch hit for reliever Randy Choate in the sixth inning.

        What it all means is conjecture. The home team has won every game in this series, but the Yankees have won four of the last five World Series with a 9-1 record on the road. The Yankees won a Game 6 stampede in 1960, 12-0, only to lose Game 7 to Pittsburgh, 10-9. The baseball cliche is that today's momentum ends with tomorrow's starting pitcher, and neither team would appear to hold a clear advantage in that category.

        The Yankees' Game 7 starter will be Roger Clemens, the only five-time Cy Young Award winner in the game's history. The Diamondbacks are expected to counter with the estimable Curt Schilling, who would be pitching a second time on short rest.

        “It's like being in an essay final against Hemingway,” Schilling said. “A paint-off against Picasso.”

        “It should be a marquee matchup,” Torre said. “Roger against Curt — they're both 20-game winners, they're both in line for the Cy Young. I think the fans will get a treat tomorrow night. Hopefully, it lives up to what it is supposed to live up to.”

        Before Saturday's game, Schilling boasted that if Johnson could force a Game 7, the Diamondbacks would win it.

        “I'm not so bold,” Johnson said late Saturday. “I like our chances playing at home, but I take nothing away from the New York Yankees. They're the defending champions and they've got a very good pitcher going for them.”

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.


       



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