After a surprising run to the World Series in just the franchise's fifth year of existence, Florida wasn't about to slow down now. On this date, October 18, 1997, Moises Alou's three-run home run in the fourth inning helped the Marlins to a 7-4 win over the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series.
In a postseason already marked by geographical firsts, Game 1 became (somewhat obviously) the first World Series game ever played in Florida. The Marlins came into the Series as underdogs against Cleveland, but in retrospect, it's difficult to see why this was the case, other than the narrative element of a young franchise advancing in the postseason when it wasn't seen as a great team before the season began. Florida finished the regular season at 92-70 (Pythagorean record of 88-74), while the favored Indians went just 86-75 (Pythagorean of 85-76). The Marlins also had a slightly more impressive postseason run to this point, sweeping the NLDS and winning the NLCS in six games against the Braves, who had the best record in baseball; Cleveland needed all five games in the ALDS and six games against the Orioles, who had the second-best record. The Indians certainly had the stronger offense, ranking fourth in the Majors in runs per game to Florida's 20th, but the Marlins had the better pitching staff, with the rankings reversed for team ERA (4th for the Marlins, 20th for the Indians). In short, the Series matchup was essentially an even one, and it played out that way, stretching to seven games; the (admittedly non-advanced) stats said Florida shouldn't have been considered a big underdog.
And the Marlins proved that in Game 1. The pitching matchup fit the trope of "young vs. old" about as well as one can. Livan Hernandez pitched for Florida, coming off a performance in the NLCS that earned him MVP of that series, based largely on his nine-inning, one-run, 15-strikeout outing in Game 5. At 22 years old, Hernandez was nearly young enough to be the son of Orel Hershiser, the Indians' starter. The 38-year-old former Dodger star was about eight years removed from his last peak season and two years removed from his last above-average season, having accrued a 4.47 ERA in 32 starts in 1997. But he still had ability left, as evidenced by his 2.45 ERA over 18.1 innings in his three '97 playoff starts to that point.
Cleveland scored first on a David Justice single in the top of the first inning to go up 1-0, but Florida quickly tied it on an Edgar Renteria groundout two frames later. The next inning proved to be the decisive one of the game for the Marlins. After Bobby Bonilla and Darren Daulton both reached base to start the bottom of the fourth, Moises Alou--who would prove a famous character for Florida's opposition in the NLCS six years later--launched a home run off the foul pole in left for his first homer of the postseason. Charles Johnson followed with a solo shot of his own, giving the Marlins the eventual winning run and putting them up 5-1. Florida played add-on in the fifth, scoring on a Jeff Conine single and a wild pitch by Cleveland reliever Jeff Juden. The Indians were able to score three more total runs, two off homers by Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, and put two runners on with one out in the top of the ninth. Marlins closer Robb Nen promptly struck out Thome and Sandy Alomar, thus sealing the 7-4 win in Game 1 for Florida.