Juan Pierre had a solid 14-year career in Major League Baseball, but one might argue that the 2003 season was his best. As a member of the Florida Marlins, Pierre finished 10th in the National League MVP voting and came up with a number of clutch hits.
That’s exactly what he did on this day 20 years ago. Pierre’s walk-off single capped the comeback as the Florida Marlins topped the Atlanta Braves, 5-4.
Entering the bottom of the eighth at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 12, 2003, the Marlins were on the short end of a 4-2 score. Facing reliever Jaret Wright, Ivan Rodriguez opened the inning with a double before Jeff Conine walked on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. Juan Encarnación then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position.
With one out, Florida would bring both home without the luxury of a hit. An RBI groundout by Derrek Lee cut the deficit to 4-3 before Conine scored on a wild pitch uncorked on the first pitch to Miguel Cabrera.
After Braden Looper worked a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, Álex González was plunked by Ray King to open the bottom of the inning. Looper stayed in the game and executed a sacrifice bunt. With a runner in scoring position, the stage was set for Pierre.
Against lefty Ray King, Pierre took the first pitch for a strike. With the count 0-1, Pierre lined it past Atlanta first baseman Julio Franco and down the right-field line. Gonzalez scored easily to give the Marlins the victory.
Atlanta started fast with three runs in the first inning, highlighted by Andruw Jones’ two-run blast. An RBI double by Cabrera got the Marlins on the board in the fourth before Lee lifted a solo home run in the sixth. Gary Sheffield, who got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly in the first, singled home the Braves’ final run of the night in the eighth.
Throughout the course of the regular season in 2003, the Marlins won 10 games in walk-off fashion, including three courtesy of Pierre. The final walk-off win of the regular season for Florida came 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