Ah, the dramatic home run. Like most teams, the Florida/Miami Marlins have seen plenty of those over the years.
On this day 20 years ago, the Marlins used not one but two of them to rally past the Toronto Blue Jays, 2-1. The blasts by Mike Lowell and Kevin Millar even came on consecutive pitches.
At Pro Player Stadium on June 3, 2000, the Marlins were unable to figure out Toronto starter Chris Carpenter. Luis Castillo was 3-for-4 with a double, but as a team, they had been kept off the scoreboard and had managed just five hits through seven innings. Florida loaded the bases with no one out in the fifth, only to squander that golden opportunity. After starting pitcher Ryan Dempster grounded into a fielder’s choice at the plate, Castillo followed suit. Mark Kotsay ultimately grounded out to end the threat.
Until the back-to-back jacks, the only run of the game had come in the second inning on a solo homer by José Cruz Jr. Cruz finished with two of the five Toronto hits in the loss.
Like Carpenter, Dempster was outstanding through seven. Dempster yielded just the run on four hits and a walk while striking out five.
After 121 pitches, Carpenter gave way to usually dependable closer Billy Koch in the bottom of the eighth. Facing the heart of the order, things started well for Koch, who got Cliff Floyd to fly out on the first pitch before fanning Preston Wilson looking. With two outs, Lowell stepped to the plate.
A disciplined hitter, Lowell managed to work the count in his favor at 3-1. Then he got a Koch fastball and knew exactly what to do with it. Lowell evened the game and broke up the shutout with a blast over the left-field wall.
It was a tie game, but not for long.
On the very next pitch, Millar also turned on a Koch fastball. It landed not far from Lowell’s blast as Millar touched them all to give Florida a 2-1 lead.
In the top of the ninth, Marlins’ closer Antonio Alfonseca was able to do what Koch couldn’t. After allowing a two-out single to catcher Darrin Fletcher, Alfonseca struck Cruz out swinging to end the contest.
After winning 11-10 the night before, the victory clinched the three-game series for the Marlins. They were unable to complete the sweep the next day as the Blue Jays won 7-2 in the finale. That would be Toronto’s last victory at Pro Player Stadium. It followed a heartbreaking loss that happened on this day two decades ago.