20-year Marliniversary: Marlins use small ball to take Game 1 of World Series

On this day 20 years ago, the Florida Marlins held on for a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series.

For the 2003 Florida Marlins, winning at hostile, historic venues in the postseason was no problem. After closing out the National League Championship Series with a pair of wins at Wrigley Field, the Marlins opened up the World Series with a victory at Yankee Stadium.

That win came on this day 20 years ago. Florida drew first blood in the Fall Classic with a 3-2 win over the New York Yankees in Game 1.

Both teams were coming off hard-fought championship series victories as they arrived in the Bronx on Oct. 18, 2003. The Marlins had erased a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs. The Yankees used a walk-off home run from Aaron Boone in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to beat the rival Boston Red Sox in 11 innings.

In Game 1, the Marlins used small ball to pick up a big win. Juan Pierre led off the game with a bunt single before scoring on an Ivan Rodriguez sacrifice fly to give Florida a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Derek Jeter’s RBI single in the third evened the game for the Yankees, but small ball again was Florida’s recipe for success in the fifth.

Following a lead-off walk to Jeff Conine and a single from Juan Encarnacion, Alex Gonzalez’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position. Pierre then lined David Wells’ 1-1 pitch into left field for a two-run single to give the Marlins a 3-1 advantage.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees were able to chase Florida starter Brad Penny with a solo home run from Bernie Williams and a one-out single from Hideki Matsui. National League Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis was called upon and retired the first eight batters he faced.

New York was able to put the tying run in scoring position in each of the final two innings. After back-to-back two-out singles from Williams and Matsui in the eighth, closer Ugueth Urbina entered the game and promptly struck out Jorge Posada to end the threat.

The Yankees were able to draw a pair of walks from Urbina in the ninth, but with one out, the Florida closer struck out Alfonso Soriano looking on a 3-2 pitch. Nick Johnson followed with a lazy fly to center to end the contest.

Williams (3), Matsui (2) and Karim Garcia (2) combined for seven of the nine hits for the Yankees. Pierre and Encarnacion each had two hits for the Marlins. Penny picked up the win while Wells took the loss.

The Yankees responded by winning the next two games, but Florida took the final three to win the series in six games. During the 2003 World Series, the Marlins went 2-1 in the Bronx. The first of those victories came on this day two decades ago.

Photo by Al Bello/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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