10/07/2003 9:35 PM ET
Marlins set NLCS record in the third
Florida's three homers wiped out a 4-0 deficit
Pudge's homer: 56K | 300K
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
Cabrera's homer: 56K | 300K
Encarnacion's homer: 56K | 300K
CHICAGO -- The Marlins are determined to surprise everyone around baseball the way they did when they won a World Series in 1997, and the latest step they took in the National League Championship Series opener at Wrigley Field certainly did evoke memories of how they went about things back then.
The combined seven home runs by the Marlins and Cubs in Game 1 set an LCS record, and a big chunk of that total came with three Florida long balls in the third inning to set an NLCS record for most in a single inning. Those homers by Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Juan Encarnacion wiped out a 4-0 deficit and gave Florida a 5-4 lead, all coming in a span of four at-bats off Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano.
It marked the second time in franchise history that the Marlins have hit three homers in a single postseason inning. The other time was in Game 3 of that triumphant '97 World Series when Gary Sheffield, Darren Daulton and Jim Eisenreich all went deep against Cleveland. That also was on the road, at Jacobs Field.
Rodriguez continued his postseason heroics, picking up where he left off after two monster games to help Florida eliminate San Francisco. After Marlins starting pitcher Josh Beckett opened the third by lining out to right, Marlins leadoff man Juan Pierre proved a catalyst with a triple -- the fourth of the game. Luis Castillo then walked, and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild came out to counsel Zambrano on how to pitch Rodriguez.
It didn't help. Rodriguez jacked the first pitch into the bleachers in left-center, making it 4-3 and quieting the boisterous Wrigley crowd. Those would be three of five RBIs for him this night. Another parallel to that 1997 World Series Game 3: Sheffield drove in five runs in that game.
"I just try to concentrate, and have nice swings and just wait for my pitch, basically," Rodriguez said, explaining how relaxed he looks at the plate now. "I know in the series with San Francisco, I just tried to stay back and use my hands, and basically that's what I did tonight. Early in the game (Zambrano) broke my bat with a pitch up and in, and the next time he threw me a fastball."
Cabrera, at 20 now the second-youngest rookie to homer in postseason play (Andruw Jones was the youngest at age 19 in the 1996 World Series), whacked a 3-1 pitch to the same spot, and suddenly the score was tied. Derrek Lee struck out looking, and then Encarnacion pelted Zambrano's first pitch way, way over the wall in left, putting Florida on top.
"I wasn't very good today," Zambrano said. "They hit quality pitches to Ivan and Cabrera, they made adjustments, and they hit it out of the ballpark. The wind was blowing out. But this is a best-of-seven, and you just go get 'em tomorrow. Whatever happens is in the past.
"They're fighters. We will continue -- this isn't over yet. They started the last series by losing the first game and came back and won, and we will try to do the same."
Those three homers were hit by right-handed batters off a right-handed pitcher, defying the odds. After lefty Pierre and switch-hitter Luis Castillo, it is a stacked Marlin lineup of right-handed hitters, and some people thought the predominantly right-handed Cubs rotation might have an advantage as a result.
"We had opportunities to win that game a couple of times earlier, and could tell it was going to be that kind of day with the ball flying out of the park," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We made mistakes, and they didn't miss them."
Beckett was the big beneficiary of that third inning, which was just par for the night. Moises Alou had taken him deep in the first inning, the first of seven dingers. "It wasn't a very good day for pitchers," Beckett said.
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.