20-year Marliniversary: Marlins clinch NLDS on play at plate

The Florida Marlins clinched the NLDS with a 7-6 win over the San Francisco Giants, recording the final out on a dramatic play at the plate.

The Florida Marlins’ runs to World Series titles in 1997 and 2003 both began with National League Division Series victories over the San Francisco Giants. The second of those two, however, came with a bit more drama.

On this day 20 years ago, the Marlins won the series with a dramatic play at the plate. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez withstood a collision and held on to the ball to give Florida a thrilling 7-6 victory in Game 4.

Up 2-1 in the series, the Marlins were three outs away from the National League Championship Series as closer Ugueth Urbina came on to pitch with a 7-5 lead at Pro Player Stadium on Oct. 4, 2003. Miguel Cabrera had come through in the bottom of the eighth with the go-ahead single. An error on catcher Yorvit Torrealba allowed a second run to score.

Against Urbina, it took the Giants just four pitches to cut the lead in half. Neifi Perez opened the inning with a double before coming around to score on a J.T. Snow single. Urbina settled down to strike out Pedro Feliz before getting Benito Santiago to fly out.

With two outs and one on, Urbina hit Ray Durham to put the tying run in scoring position. One pitch later, Jeffrey Hammonds nearly drove him home.

Hammonds’ bloop into left field was played on one hop by Florida’s Jeff Conine. Conine fired a strike to the plate in plenty of time. With Snow barreling down on him, Rodriguez caught the ball as the San Francisco first baseman delivered a punishing hit. Rodriguez held on, shaking the ball about to signify that he had made the tag for the game’s final out.

Celebration ensued as the Marlins were off to their second-ever NLCS appearance. Despite a 100-win season, the Giants were heading home.

Early on, it didn’t appear as though a dramatic finish would be necessary. After the teams traded runs in the second inning, the Marlins put up consecutive two-run innings in the third and fourth to take a 5-1 lead.

Rodriguiez and Derrek Lee came up with back-to-back RBI hits in the third before Cabrera delivered a two-run single in the fourth. That lead would hold until the seventh when San Francisco pushed across four runs.

RBI doubles from Rich Aurilia and Edgardo Alfonzo bookended a sacrifice fly from Barry Bond to cut the lead to one and end Florida starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis’ day. Snow then tied the game with an RBI single off Brad Penny.

Snow (3) and Hammonds (2) combined for five of the nine hits for the Giants. Cabrera (4) and the pitcher Willis (3) finished with seven of the 12 Florida hits.

While the Marlins went on to win their second World Series in 11 years as a franchise, San Francisco wouldn’t return to the postseason until 2010 when it began a string of three championships in five years.

From 2002 to 2021, the Giants made six postseason appearances with each either resulting in a World Series title or losing to the team that eventually won it. It was the Marlins who sent the Giants packing on this day two decades ago.

Photo by Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fish on First, who covers Miami Marlins history. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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