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World Series 2001
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11/02/2001 04:23 AM ET
Unheralded B&B battery stars for D-Backs
By Jonathan Mayo
MLB.com
Batista sparkled for 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
NEW YORK -- One guy had his start moved back a day, another didn't find out he was starting until a couple of hours before the game began.

But as unexpected as it may have seemed, Arizona's B&B battery looked like the latest in the line of improbable World Series heroes for 7 2/3 innings Thursday night.

Miguel Batista, the Renaissance man who adjusts to any role quickly, and Rod Barajas, the seldom-used backup catcher, combined to hold the Yankees hitters in check and spot their team to a 2-0 lead. The Diamondbacks appeared poised to head back to Phoenix with a 3-2 Series lead until the Yankees rallied again in extra innings. But the breakout performances of B&B were bright spots in an otherwise deflating loss for the D-Backs.

"I got the vibe [about Batista] right away," Barajas said admiringly of his batterymate. "He was absolutely incredible. He was able to throw any pitch whenever he wanted to. He threw the game of his life."

After a slightly shaky first inning, the right-hander settled down and took a shutout into the eighth inning, his longest outing of the year. During the season, Batista was shuttled back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation, where he was the No. 5 starter, and he had never gone more than seven innings. Pitching in the large shadows of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, Batista's numbers -- specifically 11 wins and a 3.36 ERA -- went unnoticed. Until now.

"I think everybody talks about the No. 1 and No. 2 over there, but he has a good arm and he threw the ball well," said Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth off Byung-Hyun Kim in the ninth. "He was moving the fastball quite a bit, saw two-seamers in one at-bat and cutters the next. So you didn't have a certain pitch to sit on or a location to look. He was really moving it around and he was throwing his offspeed well."

"Early it looked like [he] was a little uncomfortable, but I mean to tell you, he just settled in and we had no chance, it looked like," Joe Torre said. "It was about as courageous an outing as I've seen."

By the time the eighth inning rolled around, Batista's pitch count was in the 120s. Fatigue had to have been a factor when he walked Paul O'Neill and gave up a single to Bernie Williams. But Batista said it was a blister on his right middle finger that developed in the sixth inning that forced him to leave the game.

"It affected my breaking ball," Batista said. "In a game like that, you didn't want to hang anything. That's why I came out."

When he exited, he was still up 2-0. That was largely in part to the efforts of Barajas. The 26-year-old rookie backup wasn't even told he was going to start in Damian Miller's place until two hours before game time. Barajas, who went undrafted and was signed by Arizona out of a tryout camp in 1996, hadn't had an at-bat since October 6.

"I took batting practice like it was basically my game," Barajas said about trying to stay sharp after picking up just 106 at-bats all year.

It must've worked. Barajas singled in the third inning to put runners at first and second with one out, but the Diamondbacks couldn't take advantage. Then in the fifth, two outs after Steve Finley homered to give Arizona a 1-0 lead, Barajas launched one into the left-field seats to provide a two-run cushion for his starting pitcher.

"It's just sheer joy," Barajas explained. "I knew it was leaving the yard. Once the ball landed, it was pure joy. I knew I helped the team in some kind of way."

It wasn't the only way he helped. Barajas, who had difficulty throwing out runners all season, gunned down the speedy Alfonso Soriano in the third inning after the Yankee second baseman led off the inning with a single. He also deserves some credit for helping Batista along inning after shutout inning.

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Batista and Barajas should be getting welcomed into that fraternity of unsung World Series heroes. Instead, because of another unbelievable Yankees comeback, they are merely a footnote. The B&B battery feels the sting of that loss as much, if not more, than anyone, and both men admitted it takes something away from their otherwise memorable games.

"It would've been better if we had won. I get paid to win," said Batista, who added that after a little rest, he'd ask to be in the bullpen if needed. "It doesn't matter if you go out and pitch 14 innings if you leave 0-0 and lose."

"It's pretty bitter," Barajas agreed. "Everyone's dream is to hit a home run in the World Series. My dream to hit a home run has been fulfilled, but to lose the way we did, it wears on you."

Jonathan Mayo is a senior writer for MLB.com.