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Marlins Flashback: 2003 World Series, Game 4

Roger Clemens’ “final” start plus late-game heroics. What more could you ask for?

Rodriguez brushed back by pitch Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As we just celebrated the 15-year anniversary of the 2003 Marlins championship team, I wanted to share one enduring memory from that special run. It’s not Josh Beckett’s clinching performance in Game 6 or Florida’s shocking Game 1 upset in the Bronx behind Brad Penny on the mound.

Forever and ever, Game 4 of the ‘03 Series will always come to mind first.

Whether you and your friends are talking about past Marlins glory at Flanigan’s or in your living room, this game will come up in any conversations about the Fish. It’s easily among the top five most crucial and important games in franchise history.

So let’s set the stage and go down memory lane...

Several storylines surrounded this game as the Marlins and Yankees battled through the 2003 Fall Classic. First off, could the underdogs bounce back after dropping Game 3 at home? The Marlins had stolen the series opener, but lost the next two, and now faced a daunting 2-1 series deficit to the experienced Yankees.

For Game 4 specifically, right-hander Roger Clemens was allegedly bringing his historic career to a close. Emotions ran high as he took the mound.

At a sold-out Pro Player Stadium (love saying that), the young Marlins were sparked by a future Hall of Famer in the first inning. After Clemens handled the first two batters fairly quickly, he squared off with Ivan Rodriguez who singled to begin a two-out rally.

Then, rookie Miguel Cabrera went toe-to-toe with Clemens. What a mismatch on paper, right? A 20 year-old against a 20-year veteran.

After nearly taking one to the chin from the Texas native, Cabrera shocked the world by going opposite field for a two-run home-run. A star was born for Florida.

Piling on, Jeff Conine, Mike Lowell and Derrick Lee reached based as well, with Lee driving in Conine to make it 3-0 Marlins.

In the other dugout, Florida manager Jack McKeon selected Carl Pavano as his starting pitcher. Coming into the game, Pavano had been great in the NLDS and NLCS, and he continued that hot streak into the World Series.

Aside from letting a run score in the top of the second from an Aaron Boone sac fly, Pavano out-dueled Clemens. He was fantastic through eight innings, striking out four, walking none and giving up just seven hits.

Putting his rough first inning behind him, Clemens settled in and shut down the Marlins offense, allowing just three Florida baserunners the next six innings.

In the seventh inning, Clemens struck out Luis Castillo to retire the side. There it was: the final pitch of his career (as far as we knew at the time). Rightfully so, the crowd at Pro Player gave him a standing ovation.

Fast forward to the ninth, McKeon turned to closer Ugueth Urbina to finish off the Yankees and tie the series. With New York down to their final out and two runners on base, Joe Torre opted to use Ruben Sierra as a pinch-hitter. Sierra tripled down the line, scoring both runners and tying the game at three.

As the game went into extra innings, the Marlins couldn’t get anything going with their hitters, while the Yankees threatened a couple times. In the 10th, New York had a runner in scoring position, but failed to convert. Then in the 11th, Florida reliever Braden Looper faced bases loaded with just one out, but Looper managed to survive and allowed nothing.

Finally, in the bottom half of the 12th, Marlins shortstop Álex González stepped up. He had registered just one base hit in the World Series up to that point and had experienced a dreadful postseason in general.

Facing Yankees reliever Jeff Weaver, González sent a liner off his bat that just barely cleared the left-field wall.

Boom. Game over. Marlins win 4-3 and the series was tied, 2-2. That dramatic victory helped give Florida the momentum to capture Game 5, then ultimately clinch the series.