In surely one of the most up-and-down games in World Series history, Florida used a seven-run ninth inning to finally prevail. On this date, October 21, 1997, the Marlins beat Cleveland in Game 3 of the World Series, 14-11, taking a 2-1 lead.
After the Moises Alou-fueled win in Game 1, a disappointing start by ace Kevin Brown in a Game 2 loss meant that the Series would be tied, 2-2, as the action shifted to Cleveland. The move north obviously meant it would be a bit colder than in Miami, but it ended up being downright frigid for Game 3--it was 47 degrees at first pitch, but the wind chill would dip as low as 23 degrees on the night. While nobody can ever predict that 25 runs will be scored in a game, the pitching matchup didn't portend that it would be a low-scoring affair, even with the ball flight-killing cold air. Al Leiter and Charles Nagy were both only about average in the regular season, recording ERAs of 4.34 and 4.28 for Florida and Cleveland, respectively. (Though Nagy had outperformed Leiter so far in the postseason, accruing a 4.32 ERA in three starts and 16.2 innings to Leiter's 5.84 ERA in two starts, one relief appearance and 12.1 innings.)
The scoring began with the third batter of the game when Gary Sheffield hit his third homer of the postseason and first of the World Series, giving Florida a 1-0 lead. It hardly slowed down from there, as the two teams both failed to score in just the second and eighth innings. The Indians wasted no time in taking the lead themselves in the bottom of the first on two broken-bat, run-scoring singles by Matt WIlliams and Sandy Alomar. Sheffield accounted for another run in the third when, with the bases loaded, he drew the third-straight walk from Nagy, tying the game at 2-2, and Florida seized back the lead with Darren Daulton's solo shot one inning later. Next, though, it was Leiter's turn to lose his command (which happens more often in cold weather). He walked four batters around two outs, with the last free pass to Omar Vizquel accounting for the tying run. Leiter promptly gave up a two-run single to Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome's two-run homer an inning later in the fifth put the Indians up 7-3.
In the Marlins' next at-bat, Jim Eisenrich answered with a two-run shot of his own, and the game once again became tied, 7-7, in the seventh, thanks to a single by Edgar Renteria and a double by Sheffield over Marquis Grissom's head in center field. In the bottom of the frame, Sheffield's leaping catch at the wall prevented another home run by Thome and kept the game tied. But 14 combined runs, four lead changes and two ties through eight innings weren't enough for these two teams. In the top of the ninth, the real onslaught began, aided by three Indians errors. Daulton's single scored Bobby Bonilla when Grissom's throw from center went into the dugout, putting the Marlins back up, 8-7. Daulton then scored when Cleveland pitcher Eric Plunk's pickoff attempt at first plunked the umpire (sorry) and went awry. Indians second baseman Tony Fernandez misplayed a grounder off the bat off Craig Counsell to make the game 10-7, and Sheffield and Bonilla both added two-out, two-run singles, giving Florida seven runs in the ninth and a 14-7 lead.
Unsurprisingly, Cleveland made things interesting by scoring four runs off Robb Nen in the bottom of the ninth, but Vizquel mercifully grounded out to end the game. In a game that featured17 walks and six errors, it was undoubtedly difficult for fans and players alike to catch their breath (and not just because of the icy temperatures), but in the highest-scoring World Series game since Toronto beat Philadelphia 15-14 in 1993, after four hours and 12 minutes of game time, the Marlins could finally celebrate a 14-11 win and a 2-1 lead in the Series.