The first playoff series in franchise history couldn't have gone any better. On this date, October 3, 1997, the Marlins defeated the San Francisco Giants, 6-2, in Game 3 of the NLDS, putting the finishing touches on a three game-sweep of the Giants and sending Florida to its first-ever NLCS.
The first two games of the NLDS were tight, tense affairs, which was unsurprising considering that the two teams seemed pretty equally matched; Florida went 92-70 in the regular season, while San Francisco was just two games worse at 90-72. Playing in uncharted territories as a franchise, one might have expected the Marlins to look a little shaky in the early going of the Division Series, but they instead showed plenty of poise, aided by playing the first two games of the series at home.
Game 1 was a low-scoring affair, with Kirk Reuter of the Giants and Kevin Brown of the Marlins practically matching each other pitch for pitch; each ended up throwing seven innings and allowing just one run on four hits. In the bottom of the 9th, shortstop Edgar Renteria hit a two-out, walk-off single to give Florida the 2-1 win (while foreshadowing his later World Series heroics in the process). Game 2 was a much more up-and-down affair; after the Giants scored right away in the top of the 1st to go up 1-0, three ties and three lead changes followed. The Marlins once again came through with a walk-off win, as left fielder Moises Alou singled home right fielder Gary Sheffield, who had singled to lead off the inning and promptly stole second. The final score was 7-6, and Florida took a 2-0 lead out to San Francisco in the best-of-five series.
All Florida had to do to advance was win one more of three possible games. Game 3 was set up to be another close contest, as the pitching matchup seemed pretty even. The Marlins sent Alex Fernandez (3.59 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in 32 starts) to the mound, while the Giants threw Wilson Alvarez (3.28 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 33 starts). Alvarez was a deadline-deal acquisition from the White Sox, who sent him to San Francisco along with several other players in what was termed the "White Flag Trade" on Chicago's end. Despite his solid numbers overall, Alvarez's splits were a bit troubling; he had a 3.03 ERA in 22 starts with Chicago, and a 4.48 ERA in his 11 starts for San Francisco after the trade.
After the game opened with little offense, Giants second baseman Jeff Kent smashed a solo home run in the bottom of the 4th inning, giving his team the early lead in a do-or-die game for San Francisco. But Florida answered in a big way two innings later. In the top of the 6th, the first two Florida batters recorded outs, but the next three all reached, loading the bases for center fielder Devon White. White didn't have a great year in his age-34 season, playing just 74 games due to injury and putting up a slash line of .245/.338/.370. He wasn't very good in the playoffs either, going .215/.301/.354 in 65 at-bats through Florida's World Series-winning run. But White was big in this at-bat, taking a 2-1 pitch from Alvarez deep to left field for a grand slam, putting the Marlins up 4-1. They added two more runs in the 8th for insurance, while the Giants could only manage one more tally off another solo home run by Kent. Closer Robb Nen faced some trouble in the bottom of the 9th, but he eventually finished the job and preserved the 6-2 win. Florida was headed to the NLCS.