Marlins even things up

Florida survives rally by Yankees to win, 4-3, in 12 innings in Game 4

Gonzalez hits HR in 12th

Clemens goes 7 innings in last start

Pavano pitches 8 solid innings

October 23, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Roger Clemens walked off the mound a hero. Alex Gonzalez and the Florida Marlins danced off the field as winners.

Gonzalez led off the bottom of the 12th inning with a home run off reliever Jeff Weaver and the Marlins survived yet another late jolt to beat the New York Yankees, 4-3, last night to even the World Series at two games each.

Clemens got rocked in the first inning, giving up three runs, including a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera.

The Yankees bailed Clemens out, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning on a two-out triple by pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra.

Now, the Marlins have a chance to take control of the best-of-seven Fall Classic tonight when young right-hander Brad Penny takes the mound against veteran left-hander David Wells in the final game in Florida.

Wells will have a tough act to follow, though Clemens was not quite as tough as he wanted to be in what presumably was the last start of his storied career. He allowed three runs on seven hits and clearly was outpitched by unheralded right-hander Carl Pavano, who worked through the eighth and was robbed of his third postseason victory when closer Ugueth Urbina could not close out the ninth.

In a sense, it still was vintage Clemens, though it wasn't exactly the right vintage on this night. He pulled himself together after the early onslaught and worked through the seventh to warrant a classy standing ovation from a sellout crowd of 65,934 that was well aware of the magnitude of the moment.

Hundreds of camera flashes went off each time he threw a two-strike pitch to Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo, who eventually took a called third strike for the final out of the seventh inning.

Clemens knew he was coming out of the game, since the Yankees were down by two runs and his place in the batting order came up first in the eighth. He doffed his cap to the crowd as he left the field, then came out for a sustained curtain call. Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who had faced Clemens so many times before jumping to the National League this year, applauded him from behind home plate.

Clemens retired the first two batters he faced and appeared to be primed to deliver another typical overpowering performance, but he came unglued faster than a cheap pair of shoes. Five consecutive hits later, he was on the ropes.

Rodriguez got it started with one of those opposite-field singles that he employed so effectively to wear down the hard-throwers in the Chicago Cubs' rotation last week.

No big deal. Clemens just whistled a fastball under the chin of Cabrera to let him know who was boss, and Cabrera was so intimidated that he fouled off a couple of 2-2 pitches and hit a line drive into the right field seats for his first career World Series home run.

Not a bad piece of videotape to save for the grandkids.

The Marlins reeled off three straight singles for another run before Clemens got Gonzalez to fly out to deep left and end the rally - on Clemens' 42nd pitch of the inning. One more hit and the Marlins might have matched their run total (5) for the first three games of the series.

The Yankees tried to answer. They opened the second inning with three quick hits to load the bases and came within a few feet of wiping out that early deficit on one big swing by platoon right fielder Karim Garcia.

Garcia sliced a long fly ball down the left field line that drifted just to the left of the foul pole. The Yankees had to settle for one run on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Boone, but that was enough to put a little heat on Pavano, who was very much aware that he was battling to become the answer to a trivia question.

Pavano threw eight strong innings, giving up just one run on seven hits before giving way to Urbina just three outs shy of his third postseason victory, but it wasn't to be.

Sierra, who was acquired by the Yankees earlier this season seemingly against the wishes of Yankees manager Joe Torre, fought off a couple of full-count pitches and lined his two-run triple down the right field line.

Marlins manager Jack McKeon made a couple of adjustments in his batting order in an attempt to squeeze out a little more run production, obviously aware that 1.6 runs per game wasn't going to get it done against the star-studded Yankees lineup.

McKeon moved former Orioles outfielder Jeff Conine up to the fifth slot and dropped first baseman Derrek Lee down to seventh.

"This is the wrong time for the hitters to go into a slump," McKeon said before the game. "Hopefully, tonight's the night that we break out of it again. We've been in this situation a couple of times before where we didn't hit, and all of a sudden, the bats came alive and everything fell into place."

It wasn't exactly an offensive explosion, but Conine and Lee made McKeon look like a genius again. Conine singled and scored on a base hit by Lee in the first inning and both finished with multiple-hit performances.

Conine continues to be the steadiest hitter in the Florida lineup, which is just what the club was hoping would happen when the Marlins acquired him from the Orioles for a pair of promising pitching prospects.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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