Walking It Off—Marlins Postseason Walk-Offs
This article was published in the 2016 The National Pastime.
The Marlins won the World Series both times they qualified for the postseason in 1997 and 2003. This was not accomplished without a little drama: Five of the Marlins 22 postseason victories were walkoffs.1 Remarkably, they did not allow a walk-off in any of their 11 losses.2
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
Neither team did much offensively for the first six innings. Kevin Brown retired the first 14 hitters before allowing a Stan Javier two-out, infield single to short in the top of the fifth inning. Javier was caught stealing second to end the inning.
In the bottom of the first, the Marlins put together a two-out rally against Giants starter Kirk Rueter. Gary Sheffield walked and Bobby Bonilla’s line drive single to left moved Sheffield to third. However, Moises Alou flied out to center fielder Daryl Hamilton to end the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Rueter helped himself with a two-out single to left. “[Jeff] Conine made a diving stab of Daryl Hamilton’s ground ball down the line, saving a run and preserving a scoreless tie” wrote Steve Gietschier. Edgar Renteria hit a line drive single to center and Sheffield walked to lead off the bottom of the sixth. However, Bonilla lined out to Hamilton and Alou and Conine flied out to Javier to end the scoring threat. Both teams scored on leadoff seventhinning home runs. Bill Mueller hit one to right off Brown and Charles Johnson to left-center off Rueter.
Sheffield lined a double to left and Bonilla was intentionally walked by relief pitcher Julian Tavarez with one out in the bottom of the eighth. Alou grounded into an around-the-horn double play to third baseman Mueller to end another Marlins opportunity.5
Tavarez started the bottom of ninth inning. Conine singled to left and Johnson was hit by the first pitch. Tavarez was replaced by Roberto Hernandez. Rookie Craig Counsell’s sacrifice bunt to Mueller moved Conine and Johnson up to third and second, respectively. Jim Eisenreich, pinch-hitting for Dennis Cook, was intentionally walked to load the bases. Devon White’s fielder's choice, Jeff Kent to Brian Johnson, reloaded the bases with two outs for Renteria. The second-year shortstop got ahead of Hernandez 2–1 and singled to right to score Charles Johnson to end the game.6 It was Renteria’s first career postseason walk-off and the Marlins won its first postseason game in franchise history.
According to SFGATE’s Henry Schulman, “Hernandez came in with a fastball for strike one, then threw another sinking fastball on the outside corner. Renteria, a fine clutch hitter, slapped the other way into right field.” Schulman added, “Renteria hit a fastball from Roberto Hernandez, who is paid to blow pitches by hitters like Renteria. But Hernandez fell behind Renteria in the count, tilting the odds in the hitter’s favor. Hernandez knew he had to throw the ball over the plate with the bases full. ‘I’m not thinking about giving up a hit,’ he said. ‘I’m thinking about not giving up a walk. Normally a guy like that is somewhat aggressive and he tries to pull it. Then you get a ground ball to third. But he did the right thing and went with the pitch.’”
Charles Nobles wrote in The New York Times: “Ahead in the count, Edgar Renteria shut out the mushrooming delirium around him and decided guess. With the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, the Florida Marlins shortstop simply looked for a fastball on the outside part of the plate.” Renteria said to Nobles that “He got me out on sinkers the last time I faced him. But after he threw two of them for balls, I thought it was a good time to gamble.”
Moises Alou (October 1, 1997, Game Two versus San Francisco off Roberto Hernandez)7
Game Two was a slugfest compared to the first, with four lead changes. Marlins had led 2–1 after the first inning, but the Giants tied it in the second. Both teams scored in the third. They took a lead in the top of the fourth before the Marlins retook it in the bottom half on a Kurt Abbott ground-ball double play to shortstop Jose Vizcaino. The Marlins left the bases loaded at the end of the fourth. Sheffield extended the lead to 6–4 on a sixth inning, two-out solo home run to left off Tavarez. Barry Bonds’s one-out, seventh-inning double to right off starter Livan Hernandez scored Vizcaino and narrowed the margin to 6–5.
The Marlins’ ninth-inning defense deserted Florida closer Robb Nen. Hamilton reached on Conine’s fielding error as the latter was trying to flip a ground ball to Nen (and bobbled it) to start off the ninth. Javier’s infield single to Renteria moved Hamilton into scoring position. Nen recovered, striking out Javier looking and getting Bonds to force Javier at second. However, Counsell’s throwing error on the double play attempt allowed Hamilton to score and tie the game.
Giants manager Felipe Alou made numerous changes for the bottom of the ninth, starting the inning again with Roberto Hernandez on the mound. Rookie Dante Powell entered the game, playing center field. J.T. Snow also entered the game, playing first, and Kent moved from first to second, replacing Mark Lewis.8 Sheffield managed a leadoff single off Hernandez and stole second with Bonilla at the plate. Bonilla walked and Moises Alou was due up for the Marlins. On a 1–1 pitch, Alou lined a single to Powell.9 The center fielder’s throw hit off to the side of the pitcher’s mound and Sheffield scored.10 This was Alou’s first postseason walk-off.11 The Marlins led the best-of-five series, 2–0.12
Alou said to SFGATE’s Bruce Jenkins: “The guy throws so hard, you’ve got to think fastball. But he threw me a breaking ball that stayed over the plate.’ He added to SFGATE’s Nancy Gay that, “This was pretty big, but I think there should be a few more big hits coming in the postseason, hopefully. It just felt great to deliver at the right time.” Alou was quoted by The Times’s Nobles: “Those last at-bats didn’t mean anything. My thought was ‘I have everything to gain and nothing to lose.’”
Ivan Rodriguez (October 3, 2003, Game Three versus San Francisco off Tim Worrell)13
The Marlins scored first on a one-out, two-run Ivan Rodriguez home run off starter Rueter.14 The Giants tied the score in the sixth. Bonds and Edgaro Alfonzo reached on consecutive singles to start the inning. Bonds scored on Jose Cruz Jr.’s fielder’s-choice groundout to third baseman Mike Lowell. Pinch-hitting for Rueter, Pedro Feliz singled to left, scoring Alfonzo to even the score. Giants also had opportunities to take the lead.15
The Giants took the lead in the eleventh off of Braden Looper. Rich Aurilia walked on five pitches start the inning. Bonds reached on Alex Gonzalez’s error on a force attempt. Alfonzo singled in Aurilia for the go ahead run. Neifi Perez was intentionally walked with one out to load the bases. Cruz Jr. forced Bonds at home and Snow grounded to second to end the inning.
The Marlins also took advantage of the Giants’ defense in the bottom half. Conine reached on Cruz Jr.’s error on a fly ball to start the inning.16 Alex Gonzalez walked facing Tim Worrell. Cruz Jr. said to SFGATE’s Ray Ratto, “I should have caught it, and I didn’t.” Schulman wrote, “[Conine’s fly] ball hit the heel of Cruz’ glove as he closed it too soon.” Rookie Miguel Cabrera sacrificed to Worrell, moving the runners up one base, and Juan Pierre was intentionally walked to load the bases. Luis Castillo forced Conine at home, reloading the bases. Worrell got ahead of Rodriguez 1–2, but he lined a single to right, scoring Gonzalez and Pierre to win the game.17 This was Rodriguez’s first postseason walk-off.18 According SFGATE’s Henry Schulman, “Worrell got ahead 1–2 before I-Rod lined a fastball into right field. Gonzalez jogged in with the tying run. Cruz Jr. fielded the ball quickly, but any hope of a redemptive throw home was dashed by the sight of the mercury-quick Pierre rounding third with on his way home with the winning run.” The Times’s Angel Hermoso wrote: “Rodriguez batted next, aware of Worrell’s slider and control. Rodriguez said later that when he fell behind in the count, 1–2, he reminded himself to hang back and try to slap a single. He did, hitting a line drive single to right.” Hermoso added, “Cruz’s throw had a high arc and was off-line.”
WORLD SERIES Edgar Renteria (October 26, 1997, Game Seven versus Cleveland off Charles Nagy)
The Marlins had an opportunity against Indians rookie starter Jaret Wright in the first inning.19 Renteria hit a ground-ball double to right and Sheffield walked with one out. However, Darren Daulton grounded to second baseman Tony Fernandez, and Sheffield was automatically called out for running out of the baseline, ending the scoring threat.
The Indians opened the scoring in the third off of Leiter. Jim Thome’s full-count walk and Marquis Grissom’s ground-ball single opened the inning. Wright’s sacrifice bunt to Daulton moved Thome to third and Grissom to second. Fernandez’s line drive single to center scored Thome and Grissom to give the Indians a 2–0 lead. Right fielder Manny Ramirez’s walk moved Fernandez into scoring position, but David Justice struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Indians had another opportunity in the fifth. Omar Vizquel reached on an infield single to Renteria with one out and stole second. Ramirez was intentionally walked and Vizquel stole third with two outs. Justice ended another Indians scoring chance looking at a called third strike.
Meanwhile, the Marlins went hitless off of Wright between the second and sixth innings. Daulton reached third on Ramirez’s error with two out in the sixth, but Alou flied out to Grissom to end the inning. The Marlins knocked out Wright in the seventh. Bonilla hit Wright’s first pitch of the inning to right-center to cut the lead in half, 2–1. Indians manager Mike Hargrove pulled Wright from the game after a one-out walk to Counsell.
The Indians opened up the ninth with Antonio Alfonseca walking Matt Williams. Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. forced Williams at second. Marlins manager Jim Leyland brought in left-handed pitcher Felix Heredia to face the left-handed hitter Thome. Thome singled to right, advancing Alomar Jr. to third. Leyland replaced Heredia with Nen to face Grissom. Grissom hit a ground ball to Renteria, who threw Alomar Jr. out at home. Nen retired rookie pinch-hitter Brian Giles on a flyout to Alou end the ninth.
Hargrove went to Jose Mesa for his second straight save opportunity and a chance to clinch the Indians’ first World Championship since 1948. Alou led off the inning with a line-drive single to center and Johnson’s single to Ramirez advanced Alou to third with one out. Counsell’s sacrifice fly to Ramirez scored Alou to tie the game.
Renteria and Sheffield reached on consecutive singles with one out in the tenth. However, Mesa struck out pinch-hitter John Cangelosi looking and Charles Nagy induced Alou to fly out to Ramirez to end the tenth.20
In the eleventh, Williams led off the inning again with a walk, but Alomar Jr. bunted into a fielder’s choice to pitcher Jay Powell. Thome ended the inning with a double play ground ball to Counsell.
Bonilla singled up the middle to Grissom leading off the bottom of the eleventh. Gregg Zaun popped up a bunt to Nagy. Counsell reached on Fernandez’s fielding error with one out and advanced Bonilla to third. Replays showed that Bonilla was trying to avoid getting hit by Counsell’s ground ball and it may have shielded Fernandez. The Times’s Jack Curry wrote, “Fernandez declined to blame Bonilla for screening him and said that the ball did not take a bad hop. He just missed it.” Fernandez said about his eleventhinning fielding error: “I didn’t want to make the error, but the Lord allowed it to happen” (Cleary 1997). Eisenreich was intentionally walked to load the bases. Center fielder Devon White’s ground ball to Fernandez forced Bonilla at home for the second out and reloaded the bases with Renteria due up for the Marlins.
After taking a called strike to start the at-bat, Renteria lined a single to center field past Nagy’s glove to score Counsell and dramatically end the World Series.21,22 It was Renteria’s second career postseason walk-off.23 Indians broadcaster Herb Score said: “Line drive, base hit, game over. And so that’s the season for 1997” (Terry Pluto).24 The Times’s Murray Chass quoted Hargrove: “I thought Charlie had good stuff tonight. He made a great pitch to Devon White to jam him and get a ground ball out at home plate. He made a great pitch to Renteria and he hit it where nobody was standing. Those are the breaks of the game.” Renteria said, “I have been in those situations before so I wasn’t nervous.” He added: “’I felt relaxed” (Perrotto 22). Renteria also said, “that Nagy made a tactical mistake in the fateful 11th: ‘He threw me a slider on the first pitch. I took it for a strike. I knew he was going to throw me another slider and I hit it. Too many breaking pitches’” (Carter and Sloan 198). “‘The [Edgar] Renteria line drive,’ [Nagy] said. ‘It tipped off my glove. I really wish I could have caught it’” (Pluto).
Alex Gonzalez (October 22, 2003, Game Four versus New York Yankees off Jeff Weaver)25
The Marlins took the early lead in the first inning off starting pitcher Roger Clemens, scoring three runs on five hits.26 Cabrera hit a one-out, two-run home run, scoring Rodriguez. Derrek Lee’s two-out single to right scored Conine.
The Yankees responded in the top of the second with three straight singles off starter Carl Pavano. Aaron Boone’s two-out sacrifice fly to Pierre scored Bernie Williams. The Yankees got Jason Giambi into scoring position with two outs in the third and the Marlins got Lee to second in the fourth with two outs, but neither scored. Neither team had any scoring opportunities between the sixth and eighth innings.
Marlins manager Jack McKeon called on Ugueth Urbina for his second save opportunity of the series. Williams singled to Pierre and Hideki Matsui walked on six pitches with one out. Jorge Posada forced Matsui at second and moved Williams to third with two outs.
Yankees manager Joe Torre made a pair of moves. He had Ruben Sierra pinch-hit for Karim Garcia and David Dellucci pinch-run for Posada. Torre’s moves paid off for the Yankees. Sierra’s line-drive triple to right easily scored Williams from third and Dellucci from first base to tie the game at three. Pierre led off with a walk and moved to second on a Castillo sacrifice bunt to pitcher Jose Contreras in the bottom of the tenth. However, Contreras struck out Rodriguez and Cabrera swinging to end the threat.
The Yankees loaded the bases with one out in the top of the eleventh on a Williams double, Matsui walk, and an intentional pass to pinch-hitter Juan Rivera. Looper relieved Chad Fox, struck out Boone swinging, and induced catcher John Flaherty to pop up to Lee to end the inning.
Yankees pitcher Jeff Weaver was in his second inning of relief in the bottom of the twelfth and Gonzalez was leading off the inning, entering the at-bat 1-for-13 (.077) in the series with six strikeouts. 27,28 Gonzalez worked a full count and lined Weaver’s eighth pitch of the at bat, curving into the left field corner for a home run.29,30 This was Gonzalez’s first postseason walk-off. Gonzalez was quoted by the Associated Press after the game: “I had a feeling” (Wilkins 2003). Gonzalez said in Jack Curry’s Game Four recap for The Times: “When I hit the ball, I said, ‘Get up ball, get up ball.’” The Times’s Dave Caldwell wrote that “Gonzalez worked a full count against Weaver, who then tried to throw a sinker, down and away. It caught too much of the plate, and Gonzalez sent it down the left-field line and over the fence.” Weaver said in Caldwell’s article: “He did what he was supposed to do, I guess. I feel like I was making good pitches. One just got away.” Weaver added: “I felt fine. After not throwing to a lot of hitters for a long time, it was nice to get in there.” Curry also wrote that Weaver, “was in the game because Manager Joe Torre wanted to use a long man for extra innings.” Caldwell also noted that “Torre had to use Jeff Weaver, the seldom-used right hander who had such a disastrous regular season that Torre had not used him in a month.” Caldwell added, “Weaver is—present tense— his long man, Torre said after the game.” Torre himself said afterward, “If he is not in the game there, he shouldn’t be on the roster.”31
STEVEN GLASSMAN has been a SABR member since 1994 and regularly makes presentations for the Connie Mack Chapter. 2016 will be his 11th SABR convention. “Walking it Off—Marlins Postseason Walk-Offs” will be his third SABR published article. “Philadelphia’s Other Hall of Famers” and “The Game That Was Not—Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs (August 8, 1988)” were published for the SABR43 and SABR45 online journals, respectively. The Temple University graduate in Sport and Recreation Management is currently the volunteer Director of Sports Information for Manor College. He has attended Phillies games since the 1970s. Steven serves as first base coach/scorekeeper for his summer league softball team. He currently resides in Warminster, Pennsylvania.
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______. 2003. “Baseball; Unsung Penny Lifts The Marlins.” The New York Times, October 24. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/24/sports/baseball-unsung-penny-lifts-the....
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______. 1997. “A bitter taste of their own medicine.” SFGATE, October 2. http://www.sfgate.com/sports/knapp/article/A-bitter-taste-of-theirown-me....
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Online Box Scores
- 1. Most National League Postseason Walk-Offs (Five or more): St. Louis Cardinals 7, Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves 6, Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Cincinnati Reds 5, Marlins 5, Houston Colt .45s-Astros (National League) 5, and New York Mets 5. In the American League, the Yankees have 19 walk-offs and the Boston Red Sox have 11.
- 2. Most NL Postseason Walk-Offs Allowed (Five or more): Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers 11, Boston-Milwaukee-Atlanta Braves 9, St. Louis Cardinals 9, New York-San Francisco Giants 7, Philadelphia Phillies 6, and Houston Colt .45s-Astros (National League) 5. The Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers are the only NL franchises who have not allowed a postseason walk-off. The Yankees have allowed 14 walk-offs and the Red Sox have allowed eight. The Brewers and the Toronto Blue Jays are the only AL teams who have not allowed a postseason walk-off.
- 3. The Giants’ first postseason appearance since 1989.
- 4. The Marlins’ first-ever postseason appearance.
- 5. Altogether, the Marlins had runners in scoring position in the first, sixth, and eighth innings.
- 6. The last time Renteria faced Hernandez, he walked and scored on a Sheffield home run on September 14, 1997. He never struck out in six regular season plate appearances against Hernandez.
- 7. The Marlins led the best-of-five series, 1–0.
- 8. Powell came in because Hamilton “hurt his left groin muscle running the bases and had to come out” (Schulman 1997).
- 9. Alou was hitless in eight at-bats in the series before the hit.
- 10. The Marlins came back from three one-run deficits (1–0, 3–2, and 4–3).
- 11. Hernandez became the first Giant since Jack Bentley (1924 versus the Washington Nationals) to allow multiple walk-offs in the same postseason. Hernandez also was the first to do it since Twins relief pitcher Ron Perranoski in the 1969 American League Championship Series versus the Orioles. Hernandez also joined Bentley, Dennis Eckersley (1988 WS and 1990 ALCS), Tug McGraw (1978 and 1980 NLCS), Tom Niedenfuer (1981 NLDS and 1985 NLCS), Alejandro Pena (1991 and 1995 WS), Perranoski, and Jeff Reardon (1981 NLDS and 1992 WS) with multiple postseason walk-offs allowed. This group was later joined by Steve Kline (2001 NLDS and 2002 NLCS), Dan Miceli (2004 NLDS and NLCS), and Rick Porcello (2013 ALDS and ALCS). Eckersley is the only one so far who was inducted in the Hall of Fame (2004).
- 12. Marlins won game three, 6–2, to sweep its first postseason series in franchise history.
- 13. Best-of-five series tied, 1–1.
- 14. The Marlins left runners in scoring position in the third and sixth innings. They also wasted a Castillo lead-off walk in the eighth and left the bases loaded in the tenth.
- 15. The Giants were unable to convert lead-off singles in the seventh (Grissom) and the eighth (Benito Santiago).
- 16. Cruz Jr. won the 2003 Rawlings NL Gold Glove as an outfielder.
- 17. The Marlins led the best-of-five series, 2–1, and won Game Four, 7–6, to advance to the NLCS.
- 18. Rodriguez also contributed defensively in the series. He threw out Grissom trying to steal third with one out in the seventh inning and Alfonzo at the plate in a tie game. In game four, he tagged Snow out at home plate (on a Conine throw) to preserve a 7–6 win and end the series.
- 19. Nagy, the Game Three starter, was scheduled to start Game Seven, but Hargrove chose Game Four starter Wright instead, after game six. Wright was also working on three days’ rest. Nagy received a no decision in Game Three, allowing four walks, five runs (all earned), and six hits in six innings. He also had started five September games with a 5.18 ERA.
- 20. Nagy’s first relief appearance since September 1, 1990, versus the Blue Jays
- 21. At the time, the second NL Game Seven World Series walk-off (Mazeroski
in 1960) and the fourth Game Seven Series walk-off (first since Gene Larkin in 1991). Furthermore, it was also, at the time, the fifth Game Seven postseason walk-off (first since Larkin in 1991) and the first Series-ending walk-off since Joe Carter in 1993.
- 22. The Marlins won its first world championship in franchise history and became the first Major League expansion team since the 1992 Blue Jays to win its first World Series on its initial attempt. They were also the first overall, expansion, and NL team since the 1969 Mets to win the WS in its first postseason. The Marlins were the first Wild Card team to win a WS.
- 23. Renteria became the first NL batter with two walk-offs in the same postseason. At the time, he was second player with multiple walk-offs. Tigers’ Goose Goslin accomplished this feat (one in 1934 and another in the 1935 WS). Renteria and Goslin were later joined by Bernie Williams (one in 1996 and another in the 1999 ALCS), Alfonso Soriano (one each in the 2001 ALCS and WS), and David Ortiz (one in the ALDS and two more in the 2004 ALDS). Goslin is the only one so far who was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame (1968).
- 24. It was Score’s final radio call for the Indians after 35 seasons.
- 25. The Yankees entered the game, leading best-of-seven series, 2–1.
- 26. This was Clemens’s final game prior to his announced retirement, however he returned to pitch for the Houston Astros in three additional seasons—2004, 2005, 2006—and then appeared in 18 games for the Yankees in 2007.
- 27. Weaver made two relief appearances (September 22 and 24 versus the White Sox), pitching one inning since September 14. Altogether, he made seven appearances (one start) since August 19).
- 28. Juan Encarnacion pinch-hit for him in game three. Gonzalez was 1-for-16 (.063) in the NLDS with one walk and three strikeouts. He was 3-for-24 (.125) in the NLCS with two doubles four RBIs, and six strikeouts. Altogether, Gonzalez was 5-for-53 (.094) in the postseason with two doubles, four RBI, one walk, and 15 strikeouts before this at-bat.
- 29. This was the first Yankees walk-off allowed since Bill Mazeroski’s Game Seven home run in 1960.
- 30. The best-of-seven series was tied, 2–2 and the Marlins won the next two games to win its second world championship in franchise history.
- 31. Weaver pitched in his first and only 2003 postseason game. It was also his last Yankees’ appearance. He was traded with pitcher Yhency Brazoban and minor league pitcher Brandon Weeden to the Dodgers for pitcher Kevin Brown on December 13, 2003.