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15-year Marliniversary: Comeback ends in rare blown save, loss for Dodgers’ Eric Gagne

On this date in 2004, the Marlins beat baseball’s best closer with a ninth-inning rally.

Marlins v Dodgers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Eric Gagne had a two-run cushion as the Marlins came to the plate down 4-2 in the top of the ninth at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 18, 2004. A comeback didn’t seem realistic considering that he had been virtually unhittable all season. But when all was said and done, on this day 15 years ago, the Marlins would push four runs across in a thrilling 6-4 victory to take the series.

From 2002-04, the Los Angeles Dodgers closer set a record that may not be topped in this lifetime. Gagne converted 84 consecutive saves over three seasons. That streak came to an end the month before...and then the Florida Marlins stunned him again.

Striking out Florida second baseman Luis Castillo on just three pitches to start the frame, it looked like business as usual for Gagne.

The next three Marlins, however, would record hits and force him to have to pitch under pressure. After a double by Miguel Cabrera, Mike Lowell and Jeff Conine put together back-to-back singles to cut the lead to 4-3. Juan Encarnación popped up for the second out before Paul Lo Duca—who had just been acquired from the Dodgers less than a month prior—walked to load the bases.

With the bases juiced and two outs, Marlins manager Jack McKeon called on the all-time leader in pinch hits, Lenny Harris, to bat for catcher Mike Redmond. With the count 1-1, Harris delivered a bases-clearing double to center to give the Marlins the lead.

What Gagne was unable to do, Florida closer Armando Benitez was. Benitez struck out a pair of Dodgers in a perfect ninth to earn the save. Guillermo Mota, who came from Los Angeles to Miami in the Lo Duca trade, worked a scoreless eighth to pick up the win.

The loss was the first for Los Angeles when leading after eight innings in 152 games (Gagne’s streak-busting blown save versus the Diamondbacks was ultimately a 6-5 Dodgers win). It happened on this day 15 years ago.