Ten games under .500 at one point in the season, the Florida Marlins’ run to the 2003 World Series was one of the most improbable ones in recent history.
During the postseason, the Marlins took down the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. To get to the playoffs, however, the Marlins had to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Wild Card race.
On this day 20 years ago, the Marlins mounted a memorable rally to top Philadelphia. Florida scored eight runs in the eighth inning to rally for an 11-5 win.
What had been a 3-0 lead had become a 4-3 deficit for the Marlins at Pro Player Stadium on July 25, 2003. Placido Polanco’s three-run blast in the seventh inning had put the Phillies on top. As the contest shifted to the bottom of the eighth, Philadelphia turned to right-hander Mike Williams.
Florida was able to take the lead before it even registered a hit in the inning. Three walks and an error allowed the Marlins to tie the game as Mike Lowell drew a free pass with one out and the bases loaded. That ended Williams’ day, but Carlos Silva fared no better for the Phillies.
After a four-pitch walk to Juan Encarnación pushed home the go-ahead run, a wild pitch allowed Ivan Rodriguez to score to extend the lead to 6-4. The Marlins then followed four straight walks with four straight hits.
Todd Hollandsworth, who walked to open the inning, followed with an RBI single. Gonzalez was thrown out at home for the second out, but the Marlins weren’t finished. Juan Pierre capped the eight-run frame with an RBI single of his own.
Trailing 11-4 to start the ninth inning, Polanco plated another run with a sacrifice fly, but it made little difference. The only other Philadelphia run came on a solo homer from Marlon Byrd to open the seventh.
Derrek Lee finished 3-for-3 in the victory and got the scoring started with a solo home run in the second. The Marlins would add two more runs in the inning on an RBI double from pitcher Dontrelle Willis and a sacrifice fly from Pierre.
Pierre, Cabrera and Gonzalez each finished with two hits. Ugueth Urbina picked up the win. With the victory, the Marlins moved to within four games of the Phillies in the Wild Card. They wound up finishing five games better.
The Marlins would famously score eight runs in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field. That, however, wasn’t the Fish’s only eight-run eighth that year. The first one came at home in a pivotal game for Wild Card position and 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