'I get the ball and we're going to win the World Series. I feel a world champion. We're nine innings away'
Let's hope that Game Seven of the World Series is as spicy as the chatter after the Diamondbacks' 15-2 blowout of the Yankees in Game Six at Bank One Ballpark.
Arizona's victory, which tied the best-of-seven Series at three games apiece, sets up a delicious matchup between Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, just the sixth time that two 20-game winners have met in Game Seven of the Fall Classic. And Schilling, mouthy before and after the game, set up the subplots, practically guaranteeing a Diamondbacks victory.
In a television interview before Game Six, Schilling said: 'I get the ball [Sunday night] and we're going to win the World Series. I believe that in my heart of hearts. You'd be naive to think I'd take the ball thinking we're going to lose, but we're going to win.'
After the game, Schilling didn't back down. Asked how he felt, he said: 'Like a world champion. We're nine innings away.'
Not surprisingly, the Yankees had a different view. 'If it were that easy, they would've won already,' reliever Mike Stanton said. 'We wouldn't have to play the game. He's a great pitcher and he's had a great year, but we'll still have guys with bats.'
Then Stanton was reminded of Lou Piniella's guarantee that the American League championship series would go back to Seattle after the Yankees had taken a 2-0 lead. Stanton smiled. 'It's usually not smart to give the other team more motivation,' he said. It's not the veins-bulging stuff of high school football pep rallies, but it injects another charge into what has been a dynamite Series.
The D-Backs also did it with a little post-game gamesmanship, playing the Yanks' theme song, New York, New York, over the PA. Midway through, the record screeched to a halt and was replaced by Celebration. Arizona owner Jerry Colangelo said it was done in retaliation for the way the song was blasted after Yankee wins at the Stadium.
Heck, even Game Six winner Randy Johnson, who has beaten the Yankees twice, got into the act of braying. Sort of. He sat down in the post-game interview room and said: 'Let's get something straight here: Curt never has a quiet moment, the day he pitches, or the day he doesn't pitch.' Later, he added: 'I'm not as bold saying some of the things Curt said. I like our chances now.'
If the D-Backs hit like they did in Game Six, he has good reason. Imagine staking Johnson, one of the game's elite pitchers, to a 15-0 lead. The Diamondbacks batted around once, sent eight men to the plate in two other innings and totalled a World Series-record 22 hits in front of 49,707 screaming fans. Danny Bautista had five RBIs, one shy of Bobby Richardson's single-game Series record.
The game was second-most lopsided in Series history and worst Yankee loss in the Series, eclipsing the 12-1 beating the Braves gave them in 1996. Here's another number that will put the rout into perspective: The Yankees have scored 12 runs in the whole Series.
Andy Pettitte, who has pitched clinchers before, was awful. The Diamondbacks clobbered the lefty, scoring six runs in two-plus innings and sending him to his second loss of the Series. Johnson threw seven innings, allowing six hits and two runs to win his second game of the Series. He even knocked in a run and scored twice. The game got so bad that such meaningless minutia became the most interesting moments. The bizarre was all that could draw interest as early as the fifth inning: How would Randy Choate do batting against Johnson, in what might have been the biggest mismatch in baseball history? Easy whiff. Was the story about Charles Barkley getting pushed in the pool true? Yes.
The Yankees set a record, too, but it's one that won't be mentioned prominently in the Great Moments Room at the Stadium. Reliever Jay Witasick allowed nine runs (eight earned) in 1.333 innings. The eight earned runs were the most ever allowed in a Series game. Pettitte used to share the record - he gave up seven earned runs in Game One of the 1996 World Series. Witasick also gave up eight hits in the third inning, the most ever in an inning. The nine runs he allowed were one shy of the record set by Pittsburgh's Bill Kennedy in the 1903 Series.
Beforehand, there was little tension evident in the Yankees as they prepared. During batting practice, Paul O'Neill, who likely will retire, grabbed a team photographer and asked him to take some quick snaps of him and Tino Martinez. Other Yankees went through their warmups as usual, pausing occasionally to ham it up in skits with Biff Henderson of the Late Show with David Letterman.
Surprisingly, the relaxed state carried over into their clubhouse afterwards. None of the players bolted, like they did after getting clobbered by the Mariners in Game Three of the ALCS. Most talked about how easy it would be to forget the loss and how much confidence they had in Clemens. 'We have the utmost faith in him,' Stanton said. 'He's been a great pitcher and he's a Hall of Famer. I think that'll show up.'
Some, like Derek Jeter, even could smile when they heard that Joe Torre considered using Luis Sojo or O'Neill as a pitcher to save the bullpen once the game got out of control. 'You win the World Series, who cares if you lost in the sixth game,' Jeter said. 'The good thing is that you forget about it. That's the beauty of the post-season - 15-2, 3-2, who cares? Everything's on the line here. You have one game to play and you see who's better on that day. We have a lot of confidence. If anyone in here doesn't think we can win, they shouldn't play.' Schilling would probably agree.