Even in the midst of a miserable season (more on this in Thursday's post), the Marlins showed they were capable of some late-game dramatics. On this date, August 26, 1998, Florida staged an epic ninth-inning comeback to defeat the Cardinals, 7-6, thanks in part to three consecutive home runs.
Despite the final score, the affair was a pitcher's duel for most of the evening-and a pretty unlikely one at that, given that St. Louis sent lefty Darren Oliver and his 6.18 ERA in 23 starts to the hill. Marlins starter Kirt Ojala boasted better numbers (3.90 ERA), but the knuckleballer wasn't exactly a fear-inspiring presence on the mound and was pitching on two days' rest. Each pitcher had gotten shelled recently, too. Ojala had given up 10 earned runs in his two starts preceding August 26, and Oliver had given up nine earned runs in his two most recent starts.
Yet the two starters proceeded to mow down their respective opposing lineups. Through six and a half innings, the two teams had combined for just five hits and no runs. The Cardinals eventually got on the board first with a tally in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a throwing error by Ojala on a sacrifice bunt, and St. Louis finally broke through with five runs the next inning off Florida reliever Justin Speier. Just like that it was 6-0 - the pitcher's duel was gone, and it looked as if the Marlins were headed to their 87th loss of the season.
St. Louis reliever John Frascatore (3.93 ERA in 84 2/3 innings) entered the game with the outcome hardly in doubt. First baseman Derrek Lee finally got the Marlins on the board with his 15th home run to lead off the top of the 9th. And left fielder Cliff Floyd followed with a homer of his own, his 18th of the season. And third baseman Kevin Orie followed with his 5th home run. Suddenly it was 6-3, still with no outs in the ninth. Florida had life again.
Back-to-back-to-back home runs is always an impressive feat, perhaps even more so in the ninth inning, but it would've been just an interesting footnote on another nondescript loss in a season full of them had the Marlins not continued their comeback. Four batters after Orie, pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay connected for another home run off new St. Louis pitcher Jeff Brantley, this one coming with two men on base. It was a 6-6 game.
After Antonio Alfonseca retired the side in the bottom of the 9th, Florida catcher Randy Knorr doubled home Floyd off Cardinals closer Juan Acevedo to give the Marlins what became the winning run in their 7-6 victory. How unlikely was this win? According to Baseball Reference, Florida's win probability stood at 0 percent entering the top of the 9th. That, as they say, is why you play all nine--or 10--innings.