Pettitte, the brim of his cap tugged low on his head—October chic—shackled Seattle in the series opener at Safeco Field, holding the major leagues' highest-scoring team in the regular season (5-72 runs per game) to one run in eight innings while going to three-ball counts to only three of the 26 batters he faced. "Andy had that playoff look, that tunnel vision," New York pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said.
Said Pettitte, "It's our job to concentrate as hard as we can every time we pitch. But we're human. The playoffs are different, with the crowds, the adrenaline and everything that's on the line. If you concentrated 35 times during the regular season the way you do in the playoffs, I don't think that you'd make it through the year. You'd burn out."
Mussina, 32, added another gem in the Yankees' 3-2 Game 2 victory. The Mariners scored only on a fourth-inning, two-run homer by Stan Javier on a rare Mussina mistake, a changeup he left up and over the plate. As in Game 1, Rivera finished up, only this time with what Stottlemyre called "the best cutter I've ever seen from him. I've never seen his ball jump like that."
Rivera needed only 17 pitches to nail down the final five outs-three strikeouts and two groundouts. His cut fastball moved so much it resembled a 93-mph curveball. "I can't control it," Rivera said after the game about the break on his pitches. "I let it go and trust it. Today, whoa! I couldn't believe the break on it today."
Seattle avoided Rivera in Game 3 with a 14-3 win at Yankee Stadium, scoring more runs than any other foe in New York's 286-game postseason history. While the Yankees' starter, righty Orlando Hernandez, didn't make it out of a seven-run Mariners sixth, 38-year-old Seattle lefthander Jamie Moyer bedazzled the New York hitters over seven innings for his third victory of the postseason. In Game 4 the next night, just when it appeared the Mariners had dented the New York bullpen—a home run by second baseman Bret Boone off righty Ramiro Mendoza broke an excruciatingly tense scoreless tie in the eighth—the Yankees rallied to win yet another October close call. Centerfielder Bernie Williams tied the game in the bottom of the eighth with a home run. Then, after Rivera set down Seattle on three pitches in the top of the ninth, rookie second baseman Alfonso Soriano won the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run dinger that bounded off the steps in front of the right centerfield bleachers.
Word of Soriano's dramatic home run reached the Diamondbacks as they were celebrating their series clincher at Atlanta's Turner Field. "A lot of guys on this team haven't played at Yankee Stadium, like Mark Grace," said Johnson, anticipating a matchup with New York. "He's going to see baseball heaven."
Arizona won the National League West largely on the strength of Johnson and Schilling—the Diamondbacks were 51-18 when that pair started and 41-52 in games started by all others—and October has been no different. Johnson and Schilling are 5-1 with a 1.24 ERA and have thrown 51 of Arizona's 89 postseason innings (57%). The rest of the staff is 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA.
Arizona's winning formula is a venerable one, used, for instance, by the 1987 Minnesota Twins and the '88 Los Angeles Dodgers, who each proved that two dominating starting pitchers are enough to win a world championship. Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven were 6-2 for those Twins (the rest of the staff was 2-2] while throwing 55% of Minnesota's postseason innings. Orel Hershiser and Tim Belcher were 6-0 for those Dodgers (their teammates were 2-4) while accounting for 61% of L.A.'s innings.
"If you're going to get to Arizona, you'd better get to Johnson and Schilling," said Braves hitting coach Merv Rettenmund on Sunday. "The Diamondbacks have a good club, and I don't want to take anything from all their guys, but let's be honest: They win on the strength of two guys. If they lose Game 1 of the World Series behind Schilling, they're done. It's that simple."
Arizona won all three Championship Series games started by Johnson and Schilling and stole another, 11-4, in Game 4, courtesy of four Atlanta errors, which led to six unearned runs. The Braves lost that game despite handing Maddux a 2-0 lead. "There are times when you have to shut somebody out," said Maddux, who fell to 10-13 in the postseason. "Glavine did it, Schilling did it, and Randy Johnson did it. I didn't do it. It was a game we needed. Give them credit. They outpitched us."