The Florida Marlins’ run over the last 100-plus games of the 2003 regular season was nothing short of remarkable. After a 19-29 start, the Marlins finished 72-42 over their final 114 games.
Florida didn’t take sole possession of the lead for the National League Wild Card until Sept. 3. On this day 20 years ago, they completed a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies to make up some major ground with a 7-6 walk-off hit from Juan Pierre.
After beginning the three-game set five games back of the Phillies, the Marlins arrived at Pro Player Stadium on July 27, 2003, looking to make the deficit just two. The Marlins used big eighth innings in each of the previous two days to collect victories, but the series finale wouldn’t come easy.
The Marlins pushed runs across in each of the first two innings, but the Phillies answered with back-to-back three-run innings in the third and fourth. Florida regained the lead with a two-run home run from Mike Lowell in the third to go up 4-3. After the Phillies went ahead 6-4 in the top of the fourth, the Marlins drew even in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from Ramon Castro and an RBI triple from Luis Castillo.
Following four straight scoreless innings, Ugueth Urbina worked a scoreless ninth to give Florida the opportunity to walk it off in the bottom of the inning. Against Mike Williams, who struggled against the Marlins in the series opener, they would do just that.
Williams was able to strike out Derrek Lee and Alex Gonzalez, but in between those two Ks was a one-out double from Miguel Cabrera. Pinch hitter Todd Hollandsworth then drew a walk to set the stage for Pierre.
Already with two hits for the day, Pierre had been thrown out at the plate the inning before. But on a 1-1 pitch, the Florida lead-off man made that inconsequential as he flared one to left. With Cabrera running on contact, he scored easily to give the Marlins the walk-off victory.
The Marlins finished with 15 hits on the day with Lowell, Pierre and Gonzalez each recording three. Jimmy Rollins finished 3-for-4 with an RBI for the Phillies.
The Marlins wound up finishing five games better than Philadelphia for the National League Wild Card and a big reason why was how they fared head-to-head. Florida went 13-6 against the Phillies that year and won 12 of the final 14 meetings. The lone walk-off win over the Phillies from that season completed a three-game sweep on this day two decades ago.
Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fish on First, who covers Miami Marlins history. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson