With the end of the Florida Marlins and the beginning of the Miami Marlins, many, including us here at Fish Stripes of been compiling multiple "Best of ... " lists regarding the Florida Marlins era. They're great, but it's time for something new, a "Worst Of" list. What purpose does this serve? Well, none really, but trust me, it's not traumatizing, like some franchises worst games countdown would be. Consider this a trip down the alternate path of memory lane and be thankful that as bad as some of these losses felt, our franchise still doesn't have a Bucky Dent or Bill Buckner type of game.
Oddly enough, the first couple of seasons for the Fish didn't feature many epic losses. Sure, there were some blowouts, but not to the level you'll see later in this list. The first real highlight-reel loss came in 1995. No one likes getting no-hit. It happens, and it's not something to be too ashamed of, but it still stings. I don't remember too much about this game, because I was nine years old, and it was a 10pm start, so I didn't see it. From the box score we can discern that Martinez shut down a murderers row lineup featuring Chuck Carr and Terry Pendleton(!) batting cleanup. Only a two-out walk in the eighth inning kep Ramon from a perfect game.
This was the first truly epic beatdown that the Marlins received and it remains today as the largest margin of defeat in franchise history. It was the final day of the season and the club was unsuccessful in avoiding their 98th loss. Tom Glavine took the hill for the Braves. Surprising since this was in the Braves heyday and they had postseason games to come. Amazingly, Glavine was Atlanta's fourth starter in the playoffs, so he pitched this day to stay on normal rest.
He only needed to go five innings to get his 14th win of the year. It was 9-0 after the third inning. The Braves added three more in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Each of their starters recorded at least one hit, including Glavine and one Ozzie Guillen!
For some reason, opening days stay etched in our memory much more than any random day throughout the season. I'm sure there is some scientific reason why, but who knows? The team entered 2001 with some decent hope after winning 79 games the previous season. They faced the Phillies who were no powerhouse at that point (though they would win 86 games that year).
The Marlins trailed much of the game and entered the bottom of the 9th inning trailing 5-4. Coming in to close it out for the Phillies was their new acquisition Jose Mesa, who had a bad moment in Miami before. History repeated itself in a more embarassing fashion as the tying run scored on a balk. Alas, they couldn't knock in the winning run. The Fish only managed one hit in the four extra frames and the Phillies finally pushed one across in the 13th to win it. The series ended in a sweep and the Marlins stumbled to a 76-win season.
Fast forward 365 days and again it was the birth of a new year and renewed hope. Again the team was facing no powerhouse to open the season. Montreal was coming off a 68-win season and a last place finish.
Ryan Dempster got the start and was dealing, only allowing one run in his first seven innings of work. The Expos started Javier Vazquez and he was touched up for two runs and had to leave in the sixth inning. A Preston Wilson grand slam in the top of the 7th made it 6-1 Marlins with a win in the bag.
Oops. Dempster got in a bit of trouble in the eighth inning. Vladimir Nunez came in and suffered some damage but still handed a 6-4 lead over to Braden Looper for the 9th. He allowed the first two men to reach. Then, he rebounded with two strikeouts. But, like many other times, he couldn't get the final out. Jose Vidro tied it, Orlando Cabrera won it. The Stade Olympique erupted.
I think some may question the inclusion of this game on the list, but if you are going to go ahead and play a 20 inning game, you better win it. Or, if you're going to lose a game, don't score five runs in the bottom of the ninth to extend the game eleven more innings, just to lose it then. The Marlins did that.
A pretty normal Sunday afternoon game morphed entering the bottom of the ninth, after the Cardinals extended their 3-1 lead to 6-1 and put the game out of reach, or so we thought. The Fish battled back in the bottom half though and tied the game thanks to three home runs by Ramon Castro, Luis Castillo(!), and Mike Lowell.
Then the bullpens really began dealing. The teams went scoreless for ten consecutive innings. The Marlins left a man on base in each of the 10th-15th innings. They left the bases loaded in the 11th, 15ht, and 17th innings. Numerous opportunities to end a long day with an improbable win, but they couldn't come through. Finally, in the 20th inning Carl Pavano, in his second inning of relief, gave up a few hits and a run. The Marlins couldn't answer, and the six hour marathon ended with an 'L.'
The Marlins were 40-40 and traveled to Boston for a big interleague serious with the hot Red Sox. The Fish took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Then it went horribly awry. Carl Pavano got the start and faced six batters and retired zero of them. He handed the ball to the imitable Michael Tereja who faced five batters, all reached. Eleven straight batters reached to start the inning. Amazingly. Allen Levrault (who?) came in and was able to retire the side but not before giving up three runs of his own. 14-1 at the end of the first inning.
The Sox kept on scoring. Two in the 2nd, one in the 3rd, two in the 4th, and one in the 5th. At the end of five, the score was 20-5. It got worse in the seventh, as Kevin Olsen, who tossed the middle frames for the Fish, was hit with a scorching line drive right in the head. It was a scary scene and thankfully in time he was okay. He came back in September for a few games but would unfortunately be his last as a big leaguer.
Boston went on to win the game 25-8, setting all sorts of franchise records, and getting a win for starting pitcher Byung-Hun Kim. What is it with all of these games featuring former/future Marlins with different clubs?
Remarkably, this is the only postseason game on the list. In the 1997 championship run, the Fish never trailed in a series. As for this series, some might think the beatdowns the Fish received in Games Two or Four were more traumatizing and awful. But, sometimes it's just not your turn to win. Having a successful postseason is all about being able to win the tight games and swing the series in your favor.
Coming into Game Three, it was 1-1 and the Marlins really needed to win two of the three home games. Pitching matchup wise, Game Three looked bleak. The Cubs sent out ace Kerry Wood and the Fish countered with Mark Redman. To his credit though, Redman threw a nice game and kept the Marlins in it. The Fish took the lead 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, but gave it right back in the top of the eighth. The Marlins tied the game in the bottom half, then had a great chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but left the bases loaded.
After a scoreless tenth, the Cubs scratched out a run in the eleventh. The Marlins couldn't answer and in frustrating fashion ended the game with Luis Castillo being caught in a rundown between second and third. It had the feeling of a loss too bad to be recovered from. It got worse the next night, as an 8-3 Cubs win gave them a 3-1 series lead. We all know what happened next, and it makes this loss really insignificant, but still I remember the awful feeling I had past 11:00pm after this game. It looked like it wasn't our series.
This story is about more than one game. It's a tale about a week, and really the first month and a half of the 2006 season. As mentioned in my previous piece about Marlins eras, the 2006 team featured a laughably low payroll and mainly rookies after a fire sale in the offseason. The team got off to a horrid start as many guys were making major league debuts and the team simply stunk. It all came to a head in the middle of May
Coming off a weekend series victory in Pittsburgh (how strange is that?) the Marlins were in Atlanta to face the Braves. In the first game, the Fish blew an early 5-0 lead and lost 11-8. The second game saw them blow one-run leads in both the 9th and 11th innings and lost on a walk-off single to Marlin-killer Matt Diaz. The Marlins looked ready to take the third game but history repeated itself. A one-run lead in the 9th vanished and again a chance to win in the 11th was overturned. The team blew four saves in two days.
After a loss to complete the four game sweep, it was on to Tampa. In the opener, once again, a one-run lead evaporated and the Rays won in ten. Which brings us to the game listed above, the 4-3 loss to the Rays. The Fish lead 3-2 in the ninth and were one out away from their first win of the week until Russell Branyan hit a two run walkoff homer. This was the cruelest loss, both in the fashion the game ended abruptly and the fact it was the fourth time in five days the Marlins lost on a walkoff. A five day span that featured six blown saves.
I really could write 3,000 words just on this game alone so I'll try to keep it brief. Do yourself a favor though sometime and spend a half hour analyzing this extraordinary game via the link above or the Fangraphs tools.
This was the Marlins worst ever blown lead and as I already mentioned, it was just an extraordinary game. Teams were scoring from the time the umpire said "play ball." The Marlins put up a five-spot in the first inning. The Rockies chipped away, but a six-spot by the Fish in the top of the 4th, making it 13-4, seemed to put it out of reach. Again, the home team kept chipping away. They hit five home runs in innings four through six and made it just a 13-12 deficit.
The Marlins answered in the seventh and added four more, running the tally to 17-12. The bleeding was stopped and it felt like the game was won again. Amazingly, Colorado answered again with a huge grand slam by Matt Holliday, 17-16. The most strange feeling I've ever had watching a baseball game were the top of the 8th and 9th innings, where I knew if the Marlins didn't add on to already scoring 17 runs, they'd surely lose. Kevin Gregg blew a save the previous night and you could see from miles away that it would happen again. And it did. Gregg allowed four hits and didn't retire a batter (there was one error) and the game was lost.
Because this game is so recent, it's been discussed plenty. The most disgusting fact from this game is that the team sold tickets after the fact as basically a souvenir. Hey, I like perfect games as much as the next guy, but this was an opposing player. Let the Phillies do all they want to celebrate him. The Marlins should never have done a thing aside from standing and clapping at the end of the game.
Even that is questionable. Josh Johnson was very good in this game and only allowed an unearned run in the third inning. Losing any 1-0 game is infuriating. Losing a 1-0 game when only allowing an unearned run is maddening. At least the Fish got payback the next night with a 1-0 win of their own, and later in the year when JJ won the rematch vs Roy.
What would you say are the worst games/losses in Florida Marlins history? Are there any I left out? Do you have a bad personal experience with a certain game that sticks out in your memory?