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20-year Marliniversary: Ryan McGuire’s pinch-hit grand slam powers Fish past Mets

Billy the Marlin

In six seasons in Major League Baseball, utility man Ryan McGuire hit just seven career home runs. Only one of those came as a member of the Florida Marlins.

On this day 10 years ago, his pinch-hit grand slam was the difference as Florida rallied past the New York Mets, 5-3.

Through six innings at Pro Player Stadium on May 31, 2001, the Marlins had managed just four hits and no runs against Mets’ starter Glendon Rusch. In the bottom of the seventh however, things turned as McGuire played the role of unlikely hero.

The frame started with a solo home run off the bat of third baseman Mike Lowell. After Charles Johnson walked and Kevin Millar singled, Rusch’s night was done as the Mets turned to Turk Wendell. After a four-pitch walk to Álex González, Florida manager Tony Pérez turned to his bench.

To that point in the season, McGuire had just six hits as he was called upon to bat for starting pitcher Ryan Dempster. After falling behind in the count 1-2, he got a pitch he could handle from Wendell. McGuire pulled it down the right-field line for a grand slam that gave Florida its first lead of the night, 5-3.

What had been a three-run deficit when the inning started for the Marlins had become a two-run lead and the Mets had yet to record an out. With McGuire hitting in his spot, Dempster moved from in line to take the loss to in line to pick up the win.

Armando Almanza, Braden Looper and Antonio Alfonseca combined to allow just one hit in two scoreless innings of relief to seal the victory.

The Mets scored all three of their runs in the fourth. Catcher Mike Piazza homered to get the scoring started before Desi Relaford plated two runs with a single later in the inning.

As for McGuire, the blast would serve as the final home run and only grand slam of his career. It made a huge difference for the Marlins and it came on this day two decades ago.