The Marlins were clinging to their playoff hopes the year after their second World Series title, needing wins at all costs late in the season. On this date, August 15, 2004, Florida battled back from a late-inning deficit to beat the struggling Brewers in 10 innings, 5-3, gaining ground in the Wild Card race in the process.
Reigning World Series MVP Josh Beckett took the mound for the Fish at Miller Park in the rubber game of the series against Milwaukee. At 54-61 entering the day, the Brewers hadn't performed much worse than the Marlins, who came in at 57-58. But as Florida outfielder Juan Pierre put it to the Associated Press, the Brewers were the type of team that "you have to beat" if the Fish, who stood 5.5 games back in the Wild Card, were to make a late run back to the postseason. To this point in the year, Beckett hadn't taken the type of step forward that many hoped or expected he would, carrying a 4.33 ERA into his start with the Brewers (Beckett's season would end up slightly worse than his 2003 campaign, as his ERA and FIP slipped from 3.04 to 3.79 and 2.94 to 3.59, respectively). The right-hander pitched decently enough, allowing three runs over six innings for the Marlins.
Unfortunately, Beckett was soundly outdueled by Milwaukee lefty Doug Davis. A solid starter, Davis pitched better than normal against Florida that day, holding the Marlins scoreless over seven innings while allowing eight baserunners and striking out nine. The Fish threatened several times but couldn't come up with the big hit they needed, and found themselves facing a 3-0 deficit.
Despite all the team's struggles to that point, though, the Marlins finally came alive in the top of the 8th, when young slugger Miguel Cabrera connected for his 24th home run to put them on the board. An inning later, Pierre's triple and Luis Castillo's single each drove in a run, tying the game and sending it into extras. Florida wasted no time in continuing its production, as pinch-hitter Damion Easley's two-out double in the top of the 10th plated Juan Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez and gave the team a 5-3 lead. Armando Benitez closed it out in the bottom of the inning to preserve the win.
Considering that they couldn't manage any offense in the first seven innings of the game, the Marlins' three-inning outburst seemingly came out of nowhere. And yet it still wasn't as surprising as Easley's timely hit -- the utility man came into his at-bat having gone 1-for-40 in his career as a pinch-hitter. Easley's second career pinch hit lifted Florida to a critical win, putting the team 4.5 games out of the Wild Card lead with a month and a half left of the season.
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