10/23/2003 2:32 AM ET
Wells, Penny look to break tie
MIAMI -- No matter what happens during the remainder of the 2003 World Series, the Marlins will have made their mark, made their point and made their presence felt.
The Series moves now to Game 5 Thursday night tied at two games each, with David Wells on the hill for the Yankees and Brad Penny going for the Marlins. But the bottom line is, the Marlins can feel free and easy and relaxed and all that sort of stuff. They have exceeded the expectations of all their detractors and even some of their followers.
The Marlins have traveled the long and winding road of the Wild Card entry, through the upset of San Francisco, through the upset of the Cubs, over the length and breadth of this great nation and have proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they belong on baseball's biggest stage, with baseball's best. And now they have come home to their own stadium and are still at it, splitting the first two with the mighty Yankees.
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
It is true. The Marlins passed the World Series point of no return Thursday morning, beating the Yankees in 12 innings to even the Series. Even if the Marlins were to lose the next two, history will not be able to look upon them as mere postseason fodder for the Bronx Bombers. If you get swept in the Series, you get what you deserve from history. If you lose 4-1, you won't get much better. But once you get to 4-2, you were obviously in the thing and nobody can take even an ounce of that away from you.
But it's bigger than that. It's bigger than that, because why even look on the downside? The Marlins are even in the Series, and the way they've played all October, there is no fluke to any of it. And it's bigger than that because the Marlins came out of practically nowhere this season to reach the top.
They have lifted the level of the whole area. Look at it. During the previous two years, if you heard the words "South Florida," what was your next thought? Your next thought was "hanging chad." Now you hear "South Florida," and you think "Marlins, Fish, young team, old manager, speed, defense, great young arms, broke the Cubbies' hearts." You don't actually have to think all of that, but you certainly can think some of it. The Fish have done Florida a serious favor.
They are also exactly the kind of baseball team that you like to see win, unless you had a rooting interest in the Giants, or the Cubs, or now, the Yankees. They are unselfish, they are cohesive, they are all in this together. They are all about a collective will, not a bunch of ill-fitting individual egos. (It is not that the Yankees belong in that second category, either. But the Marlins are winning with less-recognizable names, fewer expectations, and much cheaper help.)
And now they get a Game 5 matchup that was the same one that went their way in Game 1, Penny vs. Wells. Penny was hit hard in the Division Series and hit hard in the NLCS and temporarily dropped from the Marlins' postseason rotation. He came back with two good relief appearances and made his return to the rotation successful with the Game 1 victory.
Marlins manager Jack McKeon was asked if Penny had changed his approach and McKeon went beyond that to a better answer in his reply:
"Well, the pitching coach has talked to him about his approach, but basically it was the situation where we got locked in with bases on balls and being behind the hitters in those first two outings," McKeon said. "Then he reverted. He's generally a pitcher that throws pretty good strikes. It was just one of those situations.
"Then you look at it, you say: 'Hey, maybe it's the first time he was in the postseason, first time he got to pitch in front of a big audience. The adrenaline may have been flowing a little bit too much for these guys. Maybe he tried to overpower too many of those guys.' But he's back on track. He's been a very successful pitcher for us all year long. We're very confident he's going to give us a good outing."
On the other side of it, Wells took the loss in Game 1, but he wasn't exactly routed, giving up three runs on six hits in seven innings. Boomer is now 8-3 lifetime in the postseason. There's an excellent chance he knows what he's doing.
"Game 1, I thought I pitched well enough to win," Wells said. "But we were just flat. It didn't work out. There's nobody to blame. If you're gonna blame anybody, blame me, I gave up the three runs. But redemption is good and that's something I'd like to have.
"This may be my last game as a Yankee, it could be. It's up to George Steinbrenner if they want to exercise my option. If they don't, then I move on. It's been great. It's been fun. It's a great organization. Great bunch of guys."
Wells also cut to the heart of the matter when he was asked what the "secret to his success" was. "Goes to show you don't have to bust your butt every day to be successful," Wells said with a smile.
Sometimes the guy is an irritant under the Yankees' skin. But sometimes, like right there, he's refreshing. But this is the Game 5 matchup for the ages: Boomer vs. the Fish. It may be late in this World Series but there are good reasons why neither side needs to become overwrought. Wells is Wells and the Fish have already done some very serious winning.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
| FAST FACT|
In Game 4, the Marlins won a game in their final at-bat for the 25th time this season. They are 16-8 in subsequent games for a .667 winning percentage, vs. .549 in all other games.