For much of the post-All-Star break in 2003, the Florida Marlins were chasing the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League Wild Card spot. After pulling in front, the Marlins made sure they stayed there.
On this day 20 years ago, the Marlins rallied for a pivotal win. Florida scored five runs in the seventh to top Philadelphia, 5-4.
With just six games to play, the Marlins held a one-game lead over Philadelphia in the postseason race as the teams arrived at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 23, 2003. At the seventh-inning stretch, Florida was on the short end of a 3-0 score.
To that point, the Marlins had managed just four hits off Phillies starter Kevin Millwood. Back-to-back walks to Derrek Lee and Miguel Cabrera to open the bottom of the seventh brought the tying run to the plate. Millwood was able to get Juan Encarnacion to fly out to center, but that would be the final out that he would record.
Two pitches later, Millwood served one up to Florida’s Jeff Conine, who deposited the game-tying blast over the “Teal Tower” in left-centerfield. With the score now knotted 3-3, Millwood’s night was done, but the Marlins weren’t.
After Mike Williams allowed a single to Alex Gonzalez and walked Brian Banks, Dan Plesac entered the contest and promptly walked Juan Pierre to load the bases. One pitch later, Luis Castillo singled to center to score Gonzalez and put Florida ahead for good. The Marlins extended their lead to 5-3 two pitches later on a sacrifice fly from Ivan Rodriguez.
In the top of the eighth, Philadelphia was able to take advantage of a pair of walks to push a run across and put the tying run at third, but Chad Fox was able to strike out Marlon Byrd to end the threat. Ugueth Urbina worked a 1-2-3 ninth to collect the save and secure the win.
The Phillies got the scoring started with a two-run double from Jimmy Rollins in the second before adding a run on a Jim Thome RBI single in the third. Pierre, Castillo and Encarnacion each finished with two hits for the Marlins.
Florida would go on to sweep the three-game series to eliminate the Phillies from playoff contention. It started the series strong with a big seventh inning 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