Down in the count, Marlins come through in the clutch
Posted: Sunday October 26, 2003 6:26AM; Updated: Sunday October 26, 2003 6:27AM
By John Donovan, SI.com
NEW YORK -- All anyone needs to know about how the Florida Marlins won the World Series on Saturday night is that they won it the same way they've been winning for most of the year.
Good pitching. And punch-in-the-gut clutch hitting. Clutch hitting like you wouldn't believe.
Unless, of course, you've been watching the Marlins for a while.
"You got to do the little things to win," said Marlins outfielder Juan Encarnacion, who drove in one of the runs in Florida's 2-0 Series clinching win in Game 6 on Saturday night. "It's not only about the homers."
No, these Marlins were not about home runs, at least not in this World Series. They hit, in fact, only two of them. These Marlins, over the week of this Series, were about staying alive at the plate at all costs. They were about taking what the pitchers gave them. They were about hitting when they had to hit.
Game 6 was a textbook example.
In the fifth inning, in a scoreless game, with the Yankees' Andy Pettitte absolutely strangling them through the first four innings (49 pitches, three baserunners, no one past second), the Marlins scrapped their way to their first run.
Derrek Lee struck out to start the inning. Encarnacion grounded out behind him. The bottom of the order was coming up. And though no one knew it at the time, the Marlins had Pettitte on the ropes.
Alex Gonzalez, hitting out of the nine spot in the lineup, hit a soft single to center field on an 0-1 pitch to start things. Leadoff hitter Juan Pierre got behind 1-2, fouled off a pitch, then singled to center field to put runners at first and second. That brought Luis Castillo to the plate.
Castillo, the team's second baseman, had three whole hits this World Series. In 21 at-bats. He looked lost. He was obviously pressing. He was, everyone figured, an easy out. And, true to form, two pitches later, he was down 0-2.
"He was trying to pitch me low and inside," Castillo said. "I just kept trying to stay alive."
He fouled off one pitch. He fouled off another. He laid off one in the dirt, and then laid off a curveball that missed outside, evening the count at 2-2. And then the lefty Pettitte threw him another curve, another one outside. And the right-handed swinging Castillo reached out and punched it into right field.
It wasn't hit hard. But it was hit hard enough. Yankees right fielder Karim Garcia came up firing, but the throw was a little on the first-base side of home plate, and by the time catcher Jorge Posada gathered it in and lunged for Gonzalez, the shortstop had reached in with his left hand to touch the plate with the Marlins' first run.
It was the eighth run the Marlins scored in the Series with two outs. They scored only 17 runs in the six games.
"I'm so happy for Luis," said third baseman Mike Lowell. "He's so hard on himself. I told him, 'Hey, just keep swinging. It'll work out.'"
Things couldn't have worked out much better. In the sixth, though, things got pretty close.
Designated hitter Jeff Conine reached when shortstop Derek Jeter bobbled an easy grounder. Lowell walked. Lee grounded into a fielder's choice, leaving runners at first and third. And then Encarnacion came up.
He, too, fell behind 0-2. But he took a fastball high, fouled off a pitch, and then lofted a curveball high into right field to score the second and final run of the night.
Two key at-bats. Two hitters who fell behind 0-2. And two runs scored.
"We keep telling them to bear down, you got one more [strike] left," said pinch hitter Lenny Harris.
That's all you really need to know about how the new world champions beat the ones with all the history.
Clutch. The Marlins were Clutch. With a capital C.