2001 World Series

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Aces high

Big Unit's three-hitter sends Yankees staggering home

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Posted: Sunday October 28, 2001 9:15 PM
Updated: Monday October 29, 2001 7:10 PM
  Randy Johnson Randy Johnson recorded the 45th double-digit strikeout game in World Series history. AP

PHOENIX (AP) -- Everyone knew the Arizona Diamondbacks had a powerful pitching tandem.

And now the New York Yankees know it's practically unhittable, too.

Randy Johnson picked up where Curt Schilling left off, pitching a three-hitter that gave the Diamondbacks a 4-0 win Sunday night and a two games-to-none lead in the World Series.

After being overmatched against Schilling in the opener, the Yankees were overpowered by Johnson. The defending three-time champions left Arizona with a total of six hits.

"I got to enjoy the game last night, watching Curt pitch," Johnson said. "It was nice, obviously, to take two ballgames, but this is far from over."

Now, New York must count on a return to Yankee Stadium to close the gap. The next matchup is in the Yankees' favor -- Brian Anderson, shaky all season, starts for Arizona against 20-game winner Roger Clemens on Tuesday night.

The Diamondbacks had banked on their 1-2 punch of Schilling and Johnson putting them ahead at Bank One Ballpark. Probably no one, however, imagined they would make the Yankees look so feeble.

CNN/SI at the Series 
Closer Look:
Andy Pettitte was nearly as brilliant the Big Unit in Game 2 -- until his luck ran out in the seventh inning.
SI's Jeff Pearlman:
Matt Williams's wife, actress Michelle Johnson, had a Hollywood moment in the seventh inning.
A Pitched Battle
Click the image to launch the clip

Yankees manager Joe Torre and others discuss Arizona's dominant duo.Start

Matt Williams discusses his three-run home run and Arizona's work ethic.
SI's Tom Verducci considers the Yankees' Game 2 struggles at the plate.
Randy Johnson and other Diamondbacks comment on their success and what awaits in New York.
Ozzie Smith discusses both clubs' strategic options in Game 3.
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Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks
The Big Unit continued to erase memories of playoff failures past with another dominant effort, allowing just four baserunners in a three-hit shutout.

Scott Brosius, Yankees
Brosius was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and botched a potential double-play ball that could have quashed the Diamondbacks' big seventh inning.

"This was one of those games where we were just dominated," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "They're not just pitching well against me. They were pitching well against everyone."

Pitching for the first time in the World Series, Johnson put on perhaps his finest performance in fanning 11. And this from a three-time Cy Young winner, a strikeout ace with a no-hitter to his credit.

"He was terrific. He lived up to what he's supposed to be," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "The axiom has never changed -- good pitching stops good hitting. And that's what we've seen."

Johnson pitched the first complete-game shutout in the Series since Schilling did it in 1993 for Philadelphia. Schilling combined with two relievers on a three-hitter Saturday night in a 9-1 romp.

While Game 1 was a rout, this one was tight until Matt Williams hit a game-breaking, three-run homer in the seventh inning off Andy Pettitte.

"They got me a run early and I had to preserve it," Johnson said.

The Yankees rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the 1996 World Series against the Atlanta Braves and rallied to win in six games, the first of their four championships in the last five years.

"It's no trip to the beach going into Yankee Stadium," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said.

With fastballs at 98 mph and sharp sliders, Johnson was in control. He didn't need much help, but had already gotten some.

Last week, he called former teammate Jamie Moyer for advice on how to pitch against the Yankees. Moyer suggested a few changeups, and Johnson threw them.

Holding his glove high to shield all but his eyes, Johnson fanned seven of the first nine batters and did not give up a hit until Jorge Posada singled to start the fifth.

His only jam came in the eighth when Shane Spencer and Alfonso Soriano started with singles. But Johnson got a complaining Scott Brosius to look at a 97 mph fastball for strike three and escaped when pinch-hitter Luis Sojo grounded into a double play.

Johnson pumped his fist when Sojo, a Yankees' good-luck charm, hit his grounder and Schilling jumped up and down in the dugout.

Brenly asked Johnson if he wanted to finish the ninth, and the answer clearly was yes. Johnson improved to 3-1 in this postseason, having beaten the Braves twice in the NL Championship Series.

Pettitte, the MVP of the ALCS, nearly matched Johnson for most of the game. He even threw an incredible 18 consecutive strikes in the early going.

On this night, though, it was going to take a no-hitter to beat Johnson.

Danny Bautista hit an RBI single in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Then in the seventh, one pitch after Bautista singled sharply off Pettitte's right leg, Williams launched a three-run homer.

Williams became the first player to hit Series homers for three teams, having done it for San Francisco and Cleveland. His wife, actress Michelle Johnson, was in the stands to cheer his latest shot. Earlier this month, Williams was booed at home during the playoffs.

"It doesn't get easier from here, that's for sure," Williams said.

Torre tried to stack his lineup with right-handed hitters, benching Tino Martinez, David Justice and Paul O'Neill.

World-Class Comebacks
Teams that have rebounded from a 0-2 deficit to win the World Series:
 Year   Winner  Loser Games
1996  Yankees    Braves  4-2 
1986  Mets  Red Sox  4-3 
1985  Royals  Cardinals  4-3 
1981  Dodgers  Yankees  4-2 
1978  Yankees   Dodgers  4-2 
1971  Pirates  Orioles  4-3 
1965  Dodgers  Twins  4-3 
1958  Yankees   Braves  4-3 
1956  Yankees   Dodgers  4-3 
1955  Dodgers  Yankees  4-3 
1921  Giants  Yankees  5-3 

There was only one benefit, and it was merely a moral victory -- Randy Velarde, playing because of his .452 career average against Johnson, was the only Yankees' starter who had not struck out by the fifth inning.

The Yankees tried all their tricks against Johnson, hoping to unhinge the 6-foot-10 lefty. They took their time getting into the batter's box, stepped out often and took a lot of pitches.

All it did was delay the inevitable. Because when they needed to hit him, they had absolutely no chance.

"The count was in my favor," he said.

Bautista, who started in place of Steve Finley in the NL Championship Series clincher and came up with a big hit, delivered again.

Reggie Sanders opened the second with an infield single and Bautista hit an RBI double on the next pitch.

Bautista took third on the throw home and, with Torre expecting a low-scoring game, he gambled and moved his infield in with no outs. This move by Torre, unlike those he made in Game 1, worked out well.

Bautista held on Williams' weak tapper, then was easily thrown out at the plate trying to score on Mark Grace's grounder to second baseman Soriano.

Notes: Comedian Billy Crystal sat in the commissioner's box for both games. A longtime Yankees' fan, Crystal owns one of their Series championship rings. But in an odd twist, he's also a minority owner of the Diamondbacks. "Talk about having a conflict," Torre joked. Crystal was shown on the scoreboard and, hearing playful booing, covered his ears. ... Anderson was a surprise choice for Game 3. He has not started since Sept. 8, and several Yankees have hit him hard. ... The Yankees said Clemens traveled back to New York before the game to rest.

Related information
Big Unit big problem for Yankees
SI's Pearlman: Best supporting actress
Closer Look: Near perfection for Pettitte
Most strikeouts in a World Series game
Day at a Glance: Now it's the Unit's turn
Bautista, Williams provide all the offense
Overpowered again, Yanks face 0-2 deficit
Yankees-Diamondbacks Box Score
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