The New York Yankees have had their tight squeezes in collecting four World Championships in the last five years – but none tighter than the 2-0 deficit they must overcome against the Arizona Diamondbacks as the 2001 Series returns to the venerable old stadium in the Bronx tonight.
The first installment in the desert has borne out the axiom that top quality pitching will tame even the best hitters. In the first two games Arizona's Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the deadliest starting duo in recent World Series history, allowed one run and six hits as New York folded to 9-1 and 4-0 defeats.
Since that run came in the first innings of Game One, the Yankees have been blanked for 17 straight innings. Schilling's relentless fastballs mowed the Yankees down, while in Game Two the 6ft 10in left-hander Johnson, whose slanting sliders make him the scariest pitcher around, was all but unanswerable. "He was sensational, wonderful," Joe Torre, the Yankee manager, admitted.
All is not lost. "It ain't over till it's over," said the former Yankee catcher and wordsmith Yogi Berra – and for proof, the Yankees can look back to 1996 when they lost the first two games to Atlanta Braves but reeled off the next four to begin their latest golden age.
"We still have our work cut out," said the Diamondbacks manager, Bob Brenl,y of the next three games in a Yankee Stadium that in normal times is known as the Bronx Zoo, but which now throbs with a huge extra charge of post-11 September emotion.
Tonight's match-up looks better for New York, but there are question marks. The unreliable Brian Anderson will take the mound against Roger Clemens, the Yankees' top starter, 20-3 in the regular season. But can "the Rocket" cope with a hamstring injury that limited him to five innings in each of his last two starts? Beyond that, the arithmetic is grim for the Yankees. They have to win four of the remaining five games, in two and possibly three of which they will face Schilling and Johnson.
Game Four tomorrow, pitting Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez against Miguel Batista, also favours the Yankees. But Brenly is tempted to pitch Schilling on three days' rest, allowing him to make a start in Game Seven – if the contest goes that far.
WORLD SERIES (Phoenix): NY Yankees 0 Arizona Diamondbacks 4 (Arizona lead best-of-seven series 2-0; Game 3 tonight at Yankee Stadium, New York).Reuse content