Said Arizona leftfielder Luis Gonzalez, who blasted a crowning three-run home run off righty reliever Jason Marquis in the ninth inning, "Even when we were down 2-0, we felt we could get to Maddux. We've hit him pretty well the last three or four times, so we were confident we could peck away."
By contrast, when the Diamondbacks gave Schilling a 2-0 lead in the third inning of Game 3, thanks to a two-run double by centerfielder Steve Finley, it might as well have been 20-0. "When he hit the double, I thought, O.K., now the destiny of this game is in my hands," Schilling said. "That's right where I wanted it to be."
Schilling has become his own Rivera. He closed his 5-1 victory by striking out four of the final five hitters while blowtorching 96-mph fastballs. He joined Luis Tiant ( Boston Red Sox, 1975) and Hershiser in '88 as the only pitchers to have thrown three consecutive complete games in the same postseason since league playoffs began in '69. "The bigger the game the better," Schilling said. "I'm an adrenaline junkie. I feed off big crowds and noise."
He also relies on detailed information about hitters, which he keeps on a laptop or in handwritten notes in a dog-eared spiral notebook. He, and not the Arizona coaches, decides where fielders should be stationed for each hitter. "Curt probably takes too much out to the mound with him," Johnson says. "He's a little too anal, whereas I rely more on my experience. You can have all the information you want, but it still comes down to execution."
Johnson needed to tap the last fumes in his fuel reserve in Game 5. The Braves rallied for a run in the seventh, cutting the Diamondbacks' lead to 3-2, and filled the bases for rightfielder Brian Jordan, Atlanta's best clutch hitter over the last month. With his 35th pitch of the inning, Johnson whiffed Jordan on an 88-mph slider near the shoe tops. "I was mentally spent walking off the mound," Johnson said.
Arizona manager Bob Brenly didn't push Johnson any further. He turned the game over to 22-year-old righty closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who threw two hitless innings to finish off Atlanta. Johnson didn't protest Brenly's hook. He merely folded his weary frame onto the dugout bench. He was triumphant but drained, the sapping of his emotional energy apparent on his wan face. It was the look of baseball in October.