Dropping ball, Giants hand win to Marlins

2-out, 2-run hit in 11th lifts Florida, 4-3, puts S.F. on brink of elimination

Rodriguez is Game 3 hero

Cruz's error starts rally

losers strand record 18

Division Series

October 04, 2003|By Harvey Fialkov | Harvey Fialkov,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL

MIAMI - Florida Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez may be a one-year, $10 million rental. But he earned every penny in Florida's wild 4-3 victory in 11 innings yesterday at Pro Player Stadium, which has the mighty San Francisco Giants dangling on the precipice of elimination.

Rodriguez drove in all four runs, including a two-run homer in the first inning off starter Kirk Rueter that staked the Marlins to a 2-0 lead that held up until the Giants' two-run sixth.

The Giants were seemingly cruising to a 3-2 victory after Edgardo Alfonzo's RBI single in the top of the 11th.

However, Giants right fielder Jose Cruz, who made two errors all season, dropped a routine fly ball that began the Marlins' two-run winning rally in their half of the 11th.

The Giants stranded a Division Series-record 18 runners, including at least one in scoring position in each of the final seven innings.

The Giants broke the Division Series record that they set in 2000 against the Mets.

Jeff Conine, who hit the fly ball, reached first safely. Alex Gonzalez walked and rookie Miguel Cabrera, who was a late-inning replacement for Mike Lowell, sacrificed the runners over.

Juan Pierre was walked intentionally to load the bases for Luis Castillo, whose come-backer was gloved barehanded by closer Tim Worrell for a forceout at home.

On a 1-2 count to Rodriguez, the 10-time All-Star laced an opposite-field single to right field, finding Cruz, who had also misplayed a critical fly ball with the bases loaded in the Marlins' 9-5 win in Game 2.

"He's a Gold Glove outfielder," Giants manager Felipe Alou said of Cruz. "He dropped a fly ball at home on a real tough windy day. But today, the ball didn't do anything, no tricks. ... Obviously we have to win now. The loser is going to be put against the wall. That's where we are."

Gonzalez scored the tying run and the speedy Pierre easily beat Cruz's desperation heave home to give Florida a 2-1 lead on the National League Division Series.

"I've done a lot of good things in my 12 years of baseball," said Rodriguez, who hit his first career postseason homer in his 12th game and 48th official at-bat. "This is very exciting. This is the playoffs, what it's all about right here."

The winner of Game 3 in the past 13 best-of-five division series that began with splits has gone on to win the league pennant nine times.

Alfonzo made the Marlins pay whether they walked Barry Bonds or not as he was 4-for-5 with a walk, and his hitting .615 in the series.

With the game tied at 2-2 in the 11th, manager Jack McKeon, who had exhausted his bullpen of Chad Fox and Ugueth Urbina, brought in demoted closer Braden Looper. Despite wriggling out of a jam Wednesday in Game 2, Looper did the unthinkable by walking Rich Aurilia to lead off.

That forced Looper to pitch to Bonds, who had been walked his two previous at-bats and ended up 1-for-4, including an infield single that sparked the Giants' two-run sixth off starter Mark Redman.

Bonds scorched a grounder up the middle right where shortstop Gonzalez was shifted to, however he couldn't handle the in-between hop, as Aurilia raced to third on the error.

Alfonzo blooped a hit over the drawn-in infield for the go-ahead run. Looper (1-0), who earned the win, escaped with no further damage.

"I have to do my job no matter how they pitch to him," Alfonzo said. "Nothing's over yet. Tomorrow is another day and we have faith we have a great team."

A dejected Cruz offered no excuses.

"It's just something that happened. Either way I should have caught it. It was tailing away but that's no excuse," Cruz said.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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