Resiliency was a staple of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins. Never was that more evident than in the National League Championship Series.
Trailing three games to one in the series, Florida won the final three games to clinch the pennant, including the last two at Wrigley Field. The Marlins closed out the series with a 9-6 victory in Game 7 over the Chicago Cubs on this day 20 years ago.
Following an eight-run eighth inning to rally in Game 6, fans in the Windy City were on edge as the teams arrived for the decisive contest on Oct. 15, 2003. Through three innings, however, things were looking good for the home team.
Against Cubs standout pitcher Kerry Wood, the Marlins started strong. Miguel Cabrera got the scoring started with a three-run home run in the top of the first inning. By the end of the third, however, Florida was on the short end of a 5-3 score.
Wood helped himself in the bottom of the second with a two-run homer off Florida’s Mark Redman to even the game at 3-3. In the third, Moises Alou took Redman deep for another two-run shot to put the Cubs ahead.
As they had all year, the Marlins showed resolve. Brad Penny, typically a starter, worked a scoreless fourth inning for Florida. In the top of the fifth, the offense responded.
Brian Banks and Luis Castillo were each able to draw walks from Wood before catcher Ivan Rodriguez took the first pitch from the Chicago right-hander to left field for a one-out RBI double. After Cabrera plated his fourth run with an RBI groundout, Derrek Lee singled home Rodriguez to give the Marlins the lead for good, 6-5.
Entering the bottom of the fifth, the Marlins turned to Josh Beckett on the mound. Beckett had tossed a complete-game shutout in Game 5 to extend the series. In the decisive Game 7, he was stellar again – this time out of the bullpen.
At the plate, the Florida offense continued to tack on. Castillo’s RBI infield single in the sixth pushed the lead to 7-5. In the seventh, Alex Gonzalez capped a two-out rally with a two-run double to give Florida a four-run lead, 9-5.
Beckett would throw four innings of relief, allowing a solo home run to Troy O’Leary in the seventh as the lone hit. In the bottom of the ninth, Florida closer Ugueth Urbina hit Aramis Ramirez to start the inning but responded with back-to-back strikeouts. A lazy flyball off the bat of Paul Bako to Jeff Conine in left field ended the contest and the Cubs’ season.
Although the Cubs hit three home runs, they managed just six hits. Conine went 3-for-3 with two runs scored for the Marlins. Lee and Juan Pierre each added two hits in the win. Penny got the win for the Marlins while Wood took his only loss of the postseason for Chicago.
The Cubs would have to wait another 13 years to get to the World Series but won their first title in 108 years in 2016. The Marlins went on to beat the New York Yankees in six games for their second championship in just 11 years as a franchise.
In club history, the Marlins are 2-0 all-time in Game 7s. Their most recent Game 7 victory and only one on the road came at historic Wrigley Field on this day two decades ago.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Sporting News via Getty Images
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fish on First, who covers Miami Marlins history. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.