Marlins defuse Rocket with two-out, first-inning rally
Posted: Thursday October 23, 2003 6:11AM; Updated: Thursday October 23, 2003 6:11AM
By John Donovan, SI.com
MIAMI -- Alex Gonzalez turned out to be the latest hero du jour for the Florida Marlins, but the Fish wouldn't be where they are -- that is, dead even in the World Series -- if not for a handful of clutch-hitting heroes in the first inning of Game 4.
The Marlins put together a memorable string of at-bats against Yankees future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens that, in effect, set the table for Gonzalez's heroics. And it was a good thing that the Marlins did it then. Because, after the first inning, Clemens was practically untouchable.
"He's not a 300-game winner for no reason," Florida's Jeff Conine said. "He knows how to make adjustments."
Cabrera, 20, had never faced Clemens. And on the first pitch, he got a taste of why Clemens has been so successful for all these years. A fastball up and in.
"I was thinking, 'Whoa,'" Cabrera said. "I say to myself, 'I better watch out. I've got to be ready.'"
Cabrera wasn't. He swung at one high fastball, and then one in the dirt, before fouling off a pair of 2-2 pitches. That's when the old pro Clemens made his mistake: Fastball outside.
Cabrera went with the pitch and poked it 380 feet to right field for a home run, the first for the Marlins in this World Series. It gave the Marlins a 2-0 lead, and immediately put Clemens on the defensive.
By the time Clemens got out of his jam, though, the Marlins had tacked on another run on Derrek Lee's RBI single. It was the last of five straight two-out hits, which tied a World Series record. Remarkably, the first four of them -- Rodriguez's single, Cabrera's homer and singles by Conine and Mike Lowell -- all came on two-strike counts.
"It looked like he was going to have a 1-2-3 inning. That was impressive," Lee said. "The first inning, he was leaving a lot of pitches up. He settled down after that."
Clemens threw 42 pitches in the first inning, 17 of them balls. But in the next four innings, he threw only 41 pitches, only nine of them balls. He went to a three-ball count on only one batter in that span and held the Marlins scoreless on three hits.
That's all the Marlins would get off him. Clemens made an adjustment after the first inning, slightly dropping the angle of his arm on his release, and lasted seven innings. Over the last six, he gave up just the three hits with no runs, striking out five. He didn't walk a batter.
The Yankees came back to tie the score at 3-3 on a two-out, two-strike hit of their own, a triple by pinch hitter Ruben Sierra in the bottom of the ninth. But Gonzalez led off the bottom of the 12th with a homer to win it for the Marlins.
Which makes those five straight two-out hits all the more impressive.
"He made some mistakes," Conine said. "And, fortunately for us, we didn't miss them."