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Monday, December 14, 2009
Invincible? Not on this night

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In the end, it's the games that matter. The anticipation that this game may produce something special. It's why we sit through Titans 47, Rams 7. It's why we sift through blogs and trade rumors and box scores. We like the games. We picked the 25 best games, matches and races of the decade -- believe us, it wasn't easy -- and listed them in reverse chronological order. We want you to rank the best. Enjoy the look back as ESPN.com writers remember these classics.

ESPN.com's 25 best games of the decade: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25

Luis Gonzalez

I remember the weird dust storm that swept into the stadium in the top of the seventh inning, blowing dirt and trash around the suddenly darkened field, followed by a light rain.

Rain in Arizona?

Sure enough, the Yankees tied the game in that inning with their first run. Was the weather a sign from the baseball gods? That's what I remember thinking at the time.

The rain stopped soon enough, but in the eighth inning Alfonso Soriano homered off Curt Schilling to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. I remember my colleague Jim Caple, sitting a row or two in front of me in the auxiliary press box out in right field, turning around and raising his arms.

"What can you do?" the gesture indicated. The game was over, of course. Mariano Rivera would stroll in from the bullpen for the bottom of the eighth inning -- at that point he had converted 23 consecutive postseason saves, including 19 longer than one inning -- and the Sandman would close out the Diamondbacks and the Yankees would win their fourth straight World Series, their fifth in six years, with Derek Jeter and Tino Martinez and Paul O'Neill and all the others leaping on Rivera after the final out.

Rivera struck out the side in the bottom of eighth.

Randy Johnson, the Game 6 winner for Arizona, retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth. Considering that Roger Clemens had started for New York, that meant four possible Hall of Fame pitchers had appeared in the game. Match that, Mystique and Aura.

I remember the Arizona fans not giving up, wildly waving white towels in a frenzied cheer as the bottom of the ninth began. I remember Mark Grace's leadoff single to center and Rivera throwing away a bunt attempt and Tony Womack doubling down the right-field line to tie the game and Craig Counsell getting hit by a pitch, and then I remember Luis Gonzalez blooping the ball over Jeter's head and Jay Bell crossing the plate with the winning run.

It wasn't really the last night of the Yankees dynasty; after all, they would win 100-plus games each of the next three seasons. But that's not what I remember thinking as the Diamondbacks celebrated and the fans danced. I remember thinking, "I will never see a game like that one again."
-- David Schoenfield

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