World Series 2001 |
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World Series 2001
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10/28/2001 01:50 PM ET
Arizona's offense comes alive
By Ken Gurnick
Luis Gonzalez and the D-Backs had much to celebrate Saturday night.
PHOENIX -- It was drilled into the Arizona Diamondbacks by their advance scouts, that the way to beat the New York Yankees is get an early lead and keep their bullpen under wraps.

So before they even had a chance to bat in Game 1 of the World Series, the Diamondbacks were already trailing, even with Curt Schilling on the mound, and it seemed like the game plan had been shredded and burned.

But Craig Counsell put it back together with another one of his miracle home runs in the first inning off Mike Mussina to get the game square at 1-1. Then, Luis Gonzalez hit a two-run shot in the third to key a four-run inning, and the Diamondbacks coasted to the first World Series win in the four-year history of the franchise, 9-1.

"When they got the run early, I'm sure some people thought, 'Here we go,'" Gonzalez said. "For us to come right back, it showed everybody we're here to play."

"We played a flawless game and beat the greatest team of our era. We hit as a lineup tonight. People who watched saw an awfully good baseball team tonight. Nobody expected us to win the way we did."

--Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Grace

Arizona's offense, held to fewer than three runs in six of 10 previous postseason games and a .235 playoff batting average, had a pair of four-run innings and 10 hits. The Diamondbacks chased Mussina, a 17-game winner, after three innings. The Yankees got only three hits, nothing new in a Schilling start, but they committed a pair of errors and generally looked like the challengers, not the defending champs who had won 16 of their last 17 World Series games.

"We played a flawless game and beat the greatest team of our era," said Mark Grace, who had a two-run double in his long-awaited World Series debut. "We hit as a lineup tonight. People who watched saw an awfully good baseball team tonight. Nobody expected us to win the way we did."

Seven Diamondbacks had hits, six scored runs and six drove runs in.

"It gets everybody involved right away, gets guys feeling good about themselves at the plate," said Manager Bob Brenly. "It was the epitome of a team effort tonight. It has not always been that way with this team this year."

The nine runs represented one more than Arizona scored in all three of Schilling's playoff wins.

"It seems every game he pitches in, it's a tough, close game," said Steve Finley, who scored twice, added an RBI single and hit a key fly ball that part-time right fielder David Justice dropped on the warning track during the four-run third inning. "You give Curt Schilling four runs, and it's pretty much lights out."

Gonzalez, who struggled with a .237 playoff average after hitting .325 with 57 homers during the regular season, added a double off left-handed reliever Randy Choate in the fourth that triggered a four-run, two-out rally.

The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves were determined not to let Gonzalez beat them in the two playoff rounds, pitching him outside and away from his power. On the home run, catcher Jorge Posada was set up outside, but Mussina missed by a couple feet and Gonzalez dropped the bat head on an inside pitch down and crushed it with the effortless swing that had become so familiar during the regular season.

"The guys have been getting on me to settle down and not swing so hard," Gonzalez said. "I've been successful all season and I want to do something to help. I took a kick in the rear from people like the guy batting in front of me, Craig Counsell. I listen to these guys."

But Gonzalez admits, despite a home run in each series, he was scuffling.

"The thing is not to show panic," he said. "I'm hitting third in a great lineup and they're counting on me. You can't show frustration. It might be eating me up inside, but if you show that to the other team, you're beat. They've got you. So I just keep plucking away and looking at tape and figure out what I'm doing wrong. Half the time it's just mental. You get a few better swings here and there and you get your confidence back."

The flip side to Gonzalez's struggles is that Counsell, batting in front of him, gets better pitches to hit. Yankees Manager Joe Torre praised Counsell for knowing how to bat in front of a hitter like Gonzalez by working deep into counts.

"I'm realizing in the playoffs that when you hit in front of one of the best hitters in baseball, they'll go after you. It's just good baseball," said Counsell, the MVP of the National League Championship Series. "They will make me beat them rather than letting Gonzo beat them. I'm just trying to take advantage of that."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for