Mike Mordecai never emerged as a household name or even an everyday starter over the course of his 12-year career in Major League Baseball. Nevertheless, Mordecai was a member of championship teams for the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins.
Mordecai was primarily as a reserve during the Marlins’ championship run in 2003. Despite that, he had plenty of big moments, including one that took place on this day 20 years ago. Mordecai’s home run in the 12th inning lifted Florida past his former team, 5-4.
Against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on July 23, 2003, the Marlins were on the verge of taking the first game of a two-game set. As the contest shifted to the bottom of the ninth, Florida enjoyed a 4-1 lead. The Marlins turned to closer Braden Looper, who immediately ran into trouble.
After a four-pitch walk to Andruw Jones and a single by Javier López, Looper surrendered a two-run triple to Julio Franco that cut the lead to one. Looper was able to get Vinny Castilla to ground out for the first out of the inning, but Robert Fick followed with a game-tying RBI single. Now 4-4, Looper kept the game tied by retiring Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles, but Atlanta had momentum and new life.
Looper bounced back to strike out the side in the 10th before Nate Bump worked a 1-2-3 11th inning. In the 12th against Atlanta reliever Trey Hodges, Florida didn’t appear on the verge of mounting any threat.
Hodges was able to get Luis Castillo and Ivan Rodriguez to ground out to start the inning. With two outs and nobody on, Mordecai came to the plate for the first time. Having entered the game to pinch run following a Mike Lowell single in the 10th, Mordecai was able to work the count to 3-1.
On an inside fastball, Mordecai pulled one deep to left field. His shot landed in the front row for the go-ahead home run. Bump worked another perfect inning to seal the win.
The Marlins got the scoring started with two runs in the fourth before pushing the lead to 3-0 on an Álex González double in the seventh. Lowell’s RBI single in the eighth extended Florida’s advantage to 4-0. Gary Sheffield singled home Atlanta’s first run in the bottom of the inning.
Castillo and Lowell each finished with three hits in the win. Castillo scored twice, but the story for the Marlins was Mordecai.
The game-winning blast would serve as his first home run in nearly two years and one of just three that he would hit in four seasons as a member of the Marlins. It came on this day two decades ago.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for Fish on First, who covers Miami Marlins history. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson