Pitcher Perfect

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Schilling gives up just one hit in the first and second innings, a single by left-fielder Pat Burrell. But he gets hit hard in the third, as Philadelphia scores four runs on five hits, including a triple by Burrell.

One of Kniffin's tasks during the game is to tell Brenly after every half inning how many pitches someone has thrown — and how things look from his perspective. The manager doesn't need his coach to tell him that this easily has been the big righty's worst inning all season.

In a testament to Schilling's doggedness, he settles down and allows his team to creep back into the game.

"Schil keeps working, no matter what," Kniffin says. "He's in the dugout, trying to figure out how to pitch Burrell. He's working on the same page with [catcher] Damian Miller; he's all about determination and focus."

Schilling leaves after eight innings with the game tied, having shut the Phillies out for five innings after his rough start.

In the bottom of the ninth, Junior Spivey hits a monster home run to left to win the game for the D-Backs, 5-4.

A few Sunday mornings ago, life seemed sweet in the sanctum of the Arizona Diamondbacks clubhouse. The word "clubhouse" doesn't do justice to the luxurious room, which features several overhead TV sets, black sectionals, spacious lockers (Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling merit two each), and a bevy of clubhouse boys eager to serve up towels, balls to autograph, clean uniforms, whatever.

Johnson was scheduled to start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 1 p.m. game. He got to the BOB at about 9 a.m. and watched some television from the leather lounge chair in front of his lockers.

Mark Grace sat on one of the couches in the middle of the expansive room, smoking a cigarette and working a Sunday crossword puzzle. He walked over to his locker and stuck the butt in the standing ashtray (where it joined dozens of others), before playfully shoving teammate Steve Finley out of his way.

Luis Gonzalez autographed a bunch of posters. Greg Colbrunn joked with Erubiel Durazo and injured relief pitcher Matt Mantei. Mike Morgan talked to anyone within earshot. Curt Schilling, his back to the room, typed away on his laptop.

A sparrow somehow found its way into the clubhouse and caused a momentary stir. It flew boldly across the sprawling room, took a left at Rick Helling's locker and headed toward Randy Johnson.

But even the little bird seemed to sense that Johnson is best not approached by strangers on game days. It continued to injured pitcher Todd Stottlemyre's locker, and landed. A clubhouse attendant soon captured the bird, then released it outside without harm.

Chuck Kniffin walked over from the coach's room to remind a few pitchers of their workout schedules for the morning. He looked around the room, the scene of such a grand celebration mere months ago, and smiled.

Kniffin says he's already slept on a couch in this clubhouse after a late-ending game or two, rather than make the long drive home to north Scottsdale — because he can.

"Thirty people in the whole world have this job," he says, "and one guy is the pitching coach of the World Champs. Right now, that's me."

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin