From 1991 to 1996, the Atlanta Braves won four of five National League pennants and one World Series. On this day 25 years ago, the Florida Marlins showed Atlanta that there was a new sheriff in town in the National League. Behind two big offensive innings and a complete game from Kevin Brown, the Marlins clinched their first pennant with a 7-4 win.
Florida had taken two of three back in Miami to take a 3-2 series lead to Turner Field as the teams arrived for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 14, 1997. The Marlins wasted little time getting the scoring started.
Against Atlanta’s All-Star lefty and former Cy Young winner Tom Glavine, the Marlins pushed across two runs before the Braves could record an out. Bobby Bonilla’s two-run single gave Florida an early 2-0 lead. After a sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk, Charles Johnson was hit by a pitch to push across a third run. Craig Counsell added an RBI groundout as the Marlins batted around in the first.
With a 4-0 lead, Brown also struggled early on the mound for Florida. Ryan Klesko’s RBI single got the Braves on the board in the first. In the second, Kenny Lofton and Keith Lockhart added RBI singles of their own to cut the lead to 4-3.
Glavine and Brown each settled in from there. In the sixth, however, Florida found its offense once again.
For the second time, Bonilla came through with the bases loaded. His RBI single doubled the lead before Moises Alou’s groundout extended it to 6-3. With two outs, an infield single from Counsell pushed across yet another run. Up 7-3, Brown worked a 1-2-3 sixth, seventh and eighth before convincing manager Jim Leyland to let him come out for the ninth.
With their season on the line, the Braves came up with three singles in the bottom of the ninth. The score was now 7-4 and the tying run was on deck in the form of Fred McGriff. Facing Chipper Jones with two out, Brown was to induce a ground ball to second base.
Counsell flipped to Edgar Rentería, who barehanded it for the force-out at second. The game was over and so was Atlanta’s season. For the first time in franchise history, the Marlins had won the pennant.
The teams combined for 11 runs and 21 hits, but all were singles. Lockhart tallied four hits for the Braves. Devon White, Renteria, Bonilla and Counsell each had two for the Marlins. White, Renteria and Gary Sheffield each scored twice.
Florida went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Cleveland Indians. The Braves would bounce back to win the National League in 1998 while Glavine won the Cy Young Award.