As baseball fans in South Florida may recall, the 2003 Florida Marlins clinched the National League pennant at historic Wrigley Field. To get the series back to Chicago, however, the Marlins had to win the final game of the series at Pro Player Stadium.
On this day 20 years ago, that’s just what they did. Trailing 3-1 in the National League Championship Series, Florida got a gem of a start from Josh Beckett and a trio of home runs in a 4-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs had won three straight in the series as the teams arrived for Game 5 on Oct. 12, 2003. Beckett made sure the Marlins’ season lived on.
In a complete-game shutout, Beckett allowed just a walk on two hits while striking out 11. The problem early on was that the Florida offense had failed to give him the lead.
Facing Chicago starter Carlos Zambrano, that changed in the fifth inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Game 1 hero Mike Lowell jumpstarted the Florida offense with a two-run homer over the “Teal Tower” in left-center field.
From there on, the Cubs managed just a single baserunner on a one-out single from Moises Alou in the seventh. The Marlins, on the other hand, tacked onto their lead with solo homers from Ivan Rodriguez in the seventh and Jeff Conine in the eighth.
The ninth inning would be the only frame in which Beckett failed to record a strikeout, but he needed just nine pitches to retire the Cubs in order and send the series back to Chicago. Following a popout off the bat of Kenny Lofton, Beckett got consecutive groundouts from Mark Grudzielanek and Sammy Sosa to end the contest.
Beckett would later come in to close the game in series-clinching Game 7 at Wrigley Field before being named World Series MVP following a complete-game shutout against the New York Yankees in Game 6. His first shutout of the postseason, however, kept the Marlins’ season alive and came on this day two decades ago.
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Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fish on First, who covers Miami Marlins history. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.