World Series 2001 |
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World Series 2001
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11/04/2001 07:38 PM ET
Grand finale: Yanks, D-Backs take it to the limit
By Carrie Muskat
Roger Clemens watched his team get pounded in Game 6 as Arizona evened the World Series.
PHOENIX -- On Sunday, a backyard baseball fantasy will come true.

Any one who has ever picked up a baseball bat, plastic or wood, from California to the Dominican Republic, imagines playing in the seventh game of the World Series.

You're at the plate, bottom of the ninth, two outs and the most intimidating pitcher in the big leagues is on the mound, staring you down. Everything on the line. Game 7.

If you're in your 50s, maybe your dream opponent was St. Louis' Bob Gibson, who led the Cardinals to victory over the Yankees in seven games in 1964. Maybe it's Jack Morris, who started Game 7 for the Minnesota Twins in 1991.

On Sunday, it's Roger Clemens vs. Curt Schilling. This is cool.

The New York Yankees, seeking their fourth consecutive world championship, will send the Rocket against the Arizona Diamondbacks' Hoss on Sunday in Game 7 at Bank One Ballpark.

Clemens, 20-3, against Schilling, 22-6. Two of the best pitchers in the game.

"It's going to be fun," New York shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Every person in baseball would take their chances if they said, 'Look, you can play in Game 7 of the World Series.'"

The D-Backs forced the finale with a 15-2 romp Saturday, slugging a World Series record 22 hits off four Yankees pitchers. Jay Witasick will likely never tell his grandkids he appeared in a World Series, not with a line like this: 1 1/3 innings, 10 hits, nine runs and an ERA over 54.

Randy Johnson won his second World Series start, giving up six hits and striking out seven over seven innings. And he's available if Schilling does indeed have problems with his right shoulder.

"Nothing is out of the question," Johnson said about pitching in relief Sunday. "I only threw 103 pitches and this is the World Series and it would be Game 7. I have four months to rest and this has been everybody's dream in the clubhouse, all of the players for the Diamondbacks and it's obviously been mine. If I can help in any way, I'll be available."

Schilling's shoulder isn't a major concern.

"According to him, he's throwing a complete game (Sunday)," D-Backs trainer Paul Lessard said.

Whether Clemens' hamstring is sore, nobody knows. The Yankees right-hander has maintained a very low profile while Schilling has been center stage. He's definitely not camera shy.

"I said if we could get by (Saturday night), we'd win the World Series," Schilling said. "I believe that. I really believe that."

"What do you expect him to say? They're going to lose?" Jeter said.

This game has a nice story line beyond the seventh-game angle. When Schilling was a young big leaguer, he met Clemens in a weight room and asked for advice. What he got was a stern, obscenity-laced lecture on how to be a big-league pitcher. Clemens downplays his role, saying Schilling deserves all the credit. Schilling seems still in awe of his mentor.

If the Lord had sat me down in January and asked me to write a script for a dream season, I could not have come up with this," said Schilling (left).

"Game 7 against Roger Clemens and everything that's happened, the way the year has gone for my family, the way the year has gone for this team and what Roger did for me and has done for me throughout my career -- I could not have dreamt this," he said. "I'm not that big a dreamer."

The two have not faced off in this Series. Schilling started Games 1 and 4, winning the first and not getting a decision in the latter, which was the first of two blown Byung-Hyun Kim games. Clemens won Game 3 at Yankee Stadium, giving up just one run on three hits over seven innings and striking out nine.

"Rocket's in the game (Sunday). He's the guy we want out there," Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams said.

The Yankees, though, would probably rather be anywhere but the desert. The Valley of the Sun is a nice vacation spot but New York now is 0-3 at the BOB after going 3-0 in the Bronx. And the Yankees are batting just .183 in the six games so far.

This is the seventh time the home team has won each of the first six World Series games. The home team has won all seven games twice: in 1987 when Minnesota beat St. Louis, and in 1991 when Minnesota edged Atlanta. Those white pompons the BOB folks were waving Saturday night looked a lot like the Twins' Homer Hankies.

"This is home for them. We have to change that," Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "We have to come (Sunday) and be prepared to face another tough pitcher. If you offered us a chance to be in Game 7 in Spring Training, we would have taken it. We didn't think it was going to be easy."

The Yankees made it look easy four of the last five years, going 16-3 in their last four World Series -- 1996 and 1998-2000 -- so this is new to them, too.

"It's our first time," Jeter said. "We've played a few fifth games in best-of-five series, so we've faced do-or-die before."

Yankees Manager Joe Torre says his current squad has been "challenged" all year. Falling behind 0-2 against Oakland in the Division Series added to that theme. Past postseason experience will certainly help New York shrug off Saturday's shellacking.

After all, it's Game 7. It's the World Series.

"It's going to be a great game and the fans should be looking forward to it," Jeter said. "We're both throwing our best guy -- they're throwing Schilling and we've got Rocket -- it's Game 7 and everything's on the line."

"You would love to get it over with earlier," Arizona's Reggie Sanders said, "but Game 7 is where it's at."

Carrie Muskat is a regional writer for based in Chicago.