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World Series 2001
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10/28/2001 03:02 AM ET
Cactus League: Game 1's best and worst
By Kevin Czerwinski
MLB.com

The neighborhood is changing, that's for sure. That stogy old mansion on the hill didn't look so imposing Saturday night. The folks that moved in down the block threw a party and everyone was at the new place to celebrate. The Diamondbacks are hoping that party will continue Sunday night in the desert while the Yanks are just hoping the celebration doesn't get too big.

One cactus: You are vulture bait
Two cactuses: Umm, yes, that crystal pool is a mirage.
Three cactuses: You have a mouthful of cactus juice, but your face is killing you.
Four cactuses: You have a full water canteen, SPF-60 sunblock and a slick pair of Ray-Bans.
Five cactuses: Lawrence of Arabia has nothing on you.

. YANKEES

Zero: Mike Mussina
The Moose. Nah. Looked more like Bullwinkle. Sure, he didn't catch a break because of David Justice's stone hands out in right. But he gave up a pair of bombs to Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez and was about as sharp as Silly Putty. Mussina waited so long to pitch in the Fall Classic. He should have waited another day or two.

Zero: Randy Choate
What, Mike Kekich wasn't available? Everyone likes to talk about Mariano Rivera and Mike Stanton in the New York bullpen. What happens, though, when you're starter gets roughed up early? You get stuck with guys that should be pitching for AAA Columbus. Sure, he was the victim of a Scott Brosius error. But who put the guys on base that scored in the first place?

Zero: David Justice
See the ball, catch the ball. At least that's the way it's supposed to happen. Justice was not served Saturday night, though, as his third-inning error prolonged a rally and cost the Yanks a pair of runs. He tracked down a ball in right center off the bat of Steve Finley and flat out dropped it. Justice compounded matters at the plate by whiffing three times in three at-bats. Maybe Halle Berry was at the game.

Zero: Joe Torre
So, the manager of the millennium does push the wrong buttons once in a while after all. He started Justice in right over Paul O'Neill and may regret that decision for quite some time. Torre brought in Choate when Sterling Hitchcock and Ramiro Mendoza were available to keep the game within striking distance. No one's perfect, not even Teflon Joe. He deserves some criticism after this one.


Sterling Hitchcock
Who is to say that he wouldn't have done what he did had he not been brought in after Mussina was booted? Instead, Hitchcock had to wait an inning before putting forth a brilliant relief effort. He went three innings, struck out six and allowed only one hit. It was just too little too late.


. DIAMONDBACKS


Curt Schilling
The King of the Desert. The Yanks probably saw Schilling working his magic in their sleep Saturday night long after the game ended. He brushed aside the Bombers as easily as he dismissed theories earlier in the week about Yankee mystique and aura. He has, in this year's postseason, established himself as the Bob Gibson of this generation. The message Schilling sent to the Bombers was crystal clear: you don't want to be seeing me again on the mound in Game 4. You won't like what you see.


Luis Gonzalez
Going, going, Gonzo. Luis Gonzalez has been silent for much of the postseason but on Saturday night gave the Yanks a glimpse of what he did to National League pitching this season. He hit a monstrous go-ahead homer off Mike Mussina, had a double, drove in two runs and scored twice. Gonzalez set the pace and the D-Backs followed. If he's playing like this by the time they hit the Bronx, he'll be salivating over that short porch in right.


Damian Miller
Unsung but effective, Miller was unfazed by all the World Series hoopla. He caught a great game and had a pair of hits, including a run-scoring double in the third. The way Damian played may be an omen for the Yanks.


Reggie Sanders
He isn't the Reggie of Octobers past but, hey, who is? He picked up a pair of hits, one of which kept a rally going in the third. He drew a walk that prolonged a rally in the fourth inning and scored a pair of runs. The highlight reels will feature Gonzo and Schilling but Sanders played an equally integral part Saturday night at The Bob.


Craig Counsell
This guy changes clothes in a phone booth, right? He lives in a cave and has a butler named Alfred? Was bitten by a radioactive spider? Is there anything he can't do? After the Yanks took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, the NLCS MVP took their mystique and ground it into the dirt by belting a game-tying homer off Mussina. Counsell finds new ways to be a hero each time he takes the field.


Mark Grace
He put the finishing touches on a four-run fourth with a two-run double. Grace has reached the promise land after languishing in Chicago for all those years. Somewhere Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg are smiling for a former member of the club.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com.