Even a late-season game between two teams nowhere near contention can be entertaining. On this date, September 11, 2007, the Marlins and Nationals proved as much, meeting in a wild, up-and-down affair that ended in a 13-8 win for Florida.
(Quick note: on this date in 1998, the Marlins became the first defending World Series champion to lose 100 games the following season, but because I just recently covered the ineptitude of the 1998 team, I decided to explore a game from a different year.)
The two clubs had little to play for by this point in the 2007 season. The Marlins entered this Tuesday game at 61-83, which put them 21.5 games back in the National League East. Washington wasn't faring much better at 65-79. But even the meaningless games at the end of the marathon MLB season must be played, and luckily for anyone watching, this one turned into an exciting, dramatic affair. All told, the game featured two ties and five lead changes, 13 pitchers used and obviously a ton of offense, including five combined home runs, two of them from Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez. The outburst was particularly surprising coming from the Nats, who finished the season last in all of baseball in runs scored.
Ramirez got the scoring going quickly, homering against Washington starter Mike Bacsik (4.65 ERA in 18 starts) to lead off the Marlins' half of the first inning. After two more Florida home runs in the bottom of the third (courtesy of first baseman Mike Jacobs and center fielder Cody Ross), the score stood 5-2 Florida and Bacsik was pulled, giving him the ugly line of five earned runs allowed in just 2.2 innings.
But Marlins starter Chris Seddon, making his first career Major League start, ended up with the worse of the two starting performances, thanks mostly to a rookie counterpart for Washington. Pinch-hitting for reliever Winston Abreu in the top of the fourth, Justin Maxwell launched a grand slam off Seddon for his first career hit, putting the Nats up 7-5. That chased Seddon, whose final line stood at seven earned runs in three innings.
That proved to be the last time Washington held a lead. Aided by a passed ball by Nats catcher Brian Schneider, Florida plated two in the bottom of the fifth to take an 8-7 lead. Washington tied it in the seventh, but the Marlins answered right away with a decisive three-run inning in the bottom of the frame, led by run-scoring hits from third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Jacobs. An inning later, Ramirez's second homer helped extend the lead. When the dust settled, thanks to a much better bullpen performance than Washington, Florida came away with the 13-8 win. It didn't mean much, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun to watch.