It is a rarity for seasons to begin with four-game series. That was the case for the Florida Marlins in 2000 and on this day 20 years ago, outfielder Cliff Floyd ended the season-opening series in memorable fashion.
In the fourth and final game of the first series of the season against the San Francisco Giants, the Marlins trailed by three entering the bottom of the eighth. In the ninth, Floyd would send the fans home happy with a two-run walk-off home run in a 5-4 win for Florida.
After winning the season opener, the Marlins had dropped the next two games to San Francisco as the teams took the field for a day game at Pro Player Stadium on April 6, 2000. Through seven innings, all Florida had managed offensively was a solo home run off the bat of Mark Kotsay.
Kotsay’s homer would be the only run that San Francisco starting pitcher Joe Nathan would give up and one of just three hits. Nathan had been the beneficiary of home runs from Russ Davis and Barry Bonds and left after seven innings with a 4-1 lead.
The Giants’ bullpen, however, would not share Nathan’s success. The Marlins were able to get to reliever Ben Weber with a nice two-out rally. Florida second baseman Luis Castillo began the bottom of the eighth with a single, but with two outs, he still stood at first.
Castillo would steal second and come around to score one pitch later on a line drive single to right field from Preston Wilson. After Mike Lowell drew a walk, San Francisco lifted Weber for Alan Embree. Embree lasted just a batter as he yielded an RBI single to pinch-hitter Mark Smith to cut the lead to one.
San Francisco closer John Johnstone entered the game and walked Derrek Lee to load the bases. Johnstone, however, was able to buckle down and get catcher Sandy Martinez to fly out to strand three runners. The ninth inning would be a different story.
After Armando Almanza and Dan Miceli combined to keep the Giants off the board in the top of the ninth, Kevin Millar got things started off Johnstone with a single to center field. Castillo pushed pinch-runner Chris Clapinski to second with a sacrifice bunt, but Álex González popped up. With two outs, Florida trailing 4-3 and a runner on second, the game rested on the bat of Cliff Floyd.
Floyd needed just one pitch to deliver the Marlins. On a fastball from Johnstone, Floyd went the other way over the “teal tower” in left field for a two-run walk-off home run and a 5-4 win for Florida.
Floyd had been hitless in four trips to the plate prior to his heroics. Castillo had two hits in the win. Calvin Murray was 3-for-4 with a run scored in the loss for San Francisco.
After getting the win the night prior, Johnstone took the loss and suffered his first blown save of the season. Miceli retired Jeff Kent in the ninth for Florida and was the winning pitcher.
Floyd would go on to have a then career year for the Marlins in 2000, finishing with a .300 average, 22 home runs and 91 RBIs. His first time playing hero during that campaign came on this day two decades ago.