The Return of Mystique and Aura?

Game Six of the World Series. The New York Yankees are just one win away from a world championship. They are sending Andy Pettitte to the mound. Pettitte has been one of the Yankees most clutch post season pitchers in franchise history. Given the Yankees powerful line-up; they are heavy favorites to close out the World Series without getting to a chaotic Game Seven.

That paragraph could very easily have been written to describe the 2009 World Series. Instead, it was part of a paragraph I wrote on November 3, 2001. The Arizona Diamondbacks had left then Bank One Ballpark after Game Two holding a two-game lead over the New York Yankees.

After three nightmarish games in the Bronx, the Diamondbacks returned to Phoenix one game away from being eliminated from their first World Series. According to the media and sports writers, the Yankees were on the verge of winning their 27th World Championship.

Given the drastic swing of momentum, it would be hard to argue against Pettitte and the Yankees. If the Arizona Diamondbacks were going to survive, it would take a Herculean effort. In Game Six, the role of Hercules would be played by 6 foot 10 inch Randy Johnson.

mystique_auraFrom the very beginning, the Diamondbacks wanted to let the Yankees know that they had no intention of lying down and allowing them to celebrate their latest championship especially not on Arizona’s playing field.

With the sound of a Troy Brohawn pitch hitting the catcher’s mitt still ringing in the stadium (Brohawn would strike out Clay Bellinger for the final out) , the Diamondbacks had forced a Game Seven. Arizona made a statement and did so in a dominating fashion scoring 15 runs in the first three plus innings of the game.

The heralded Andy Pettitte lasted just two innings allowing six runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out just a single Diamondback. The bullpen didn’t fare much better giving up nine runs on 15 hits.

Yankees fans walked out of Bank One Ballpark in a stunned daze. It was especially depressing since New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani had flown the families of victims of the World Trade Center attack to watch the game in Arizona and celebrate a Yankees victory.

In 2001 Andy Pettitte was pitching on regular rest. For the 2009 World Series, manager Joe Girardi is asking him to win on short rest. He didn’t have his good stuff eight years ago, the question is will he have it tonight?

In 2001 we were told the Yankees bullpen was a huge advantage over the mismatch of arms that Arizona was rolling out. The Diamondbacks closer was a basket case after losing Game Four and Game Five. There were questions who manager Bob Brenly would send out to finish a game if it got that far.

The similarities between 2001 and 2009 are striking. In the immortal words of Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again”.

Just one night later on November 4, 2001 the Arizona Diamondbacks played Game Seven of perhaps the greatest World Series ever played. The New York Yankees took the lead in the eighth inning on an Alfonso Soriano home run to left field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning Yankees manager Joe Torre brought in closer Mariano Rivera. Given Rivera’s reputation, this game was pretty much over. The Yankees were on the cusp of their 27th World Series title.

With champagne chilling in the clubhouse the Yankees’ closer struck out the side in the eighth. Randy Johnson came out of the bullpen to pitch just a day removed from being the winner in Game Six and set the Yankees down in order in the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera stumbled at a time when the Yankees needed him the most. The game ended with the now famous Luis Gonzalez bloop single over the head of shortstop Derek Jeter allowing Jay Bell to score and making the Arizona Diamondbacks the world champions.

I am sure Rivera would love nothing better than to redeem that mistake tonight against the Philadelphia. The question is, will he get that chance or will the Phillies chase Andy Pettitte from the game much like their Arizona counterparts did in 2001? Personally I’ll be glued to the telecast to see if history will repeat itself. Just maybe Mystique and Aura will have tickets to tonight’s game.


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