SERIES: Division Series, Game 3; tied 1-1.
Manager Jack McKeon and the Florida Marlins are used to being counted out. Playing in front of capacity crowds at normally dormant Pro Player Stadium is another matter.
After earning a split in San Francisco, McKeon and the Marlins are looking forward to hosting the next two games of their best-of-five playoff series with Barry Bonds and the defending NL champion Giants.
“It was very important, there’s no question about it,” said McKeon after the gritty Marlins recovered from a Game 1 loss at Pacific Bell Park by rallying past the Giants for a 9-5 win Wednesday.
“This club has been that way all year. Our guys are resilient. We’ve had a lot of tough losses, and they bounced back. … They did the same thing (Wednesday). I’m not saying it’s because we won the game, but I was very confident these guys would come out and be ready to play and play hard, because that’s the type of guys we got. We got some warriors out there.”
The Marlins were 10 games below .500 in May before McKeon replaced fired manager Jeff Torborg and engineered an improbable run to the playoffs— Florida’s first postseason appearance since winning the World Series in 1997.
While the crowds in Miami grew steadily as the Marlins made their push for the wild card, McKeon and his team will play before at least 100,000 frenzied fans in Games 3 and 4. Florida went 53-38 (.654) at home this year.
“We go back to our place, we play extremely well at home, we hit better at home, and for some reason we pitch better at home,” McKeon said. “And it’s a big positive for us to get back home with a 1-1 situation here.”
The Giants appeared to have control of the series with a 4-1 lead entering the fifth inning of Game 2, but a faulty bullpen and flawless pitching by Florida’s relievers left them needing at least one win to send the series back to Pac Bell for a decisive fifth game.
“We know that it’s going to be a tough series,” San Francisco manager Felipe Alou said. “We’ve been talking about it. We were hoping to get out of (San Francisco up) 2-0.
“But experience should help us going with a tie, going to the place they tell me is going to be 50,000 people who really were afraid they were going to lose their team. They are going to be all out for their club. So it helps to have a team that’s been around like our club has been around.”
Bonds went 1-for-2 with an RBI and two walks in Game 2, and has been retired just twice in eight plate appearances, drawing five walks.
“They played better. They won. That’s the end of it. Go away,” Bonds said.
Pesky leadoff man Juan Pierre went 4-for-5 with three RBIs on Wednesday, pacing a 15-hit attack by the Marlins. Juan Encarnacion delivered a game-tying homer off San Francisco reliever Joe Nathan as Florida took command by scoring three runs in both the fifth and sixth inning.
“Getting down 4-1, I think they were confident they would get us again,” Pierre said. “We put the pressure on them and kept the pressure on.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Giants - NL West champion. Marlins - NL wild card.
PROJECTED LINEUPS: Giants - 2B Ray Durham (.285, 8, 33), 1B J.T. Snow (.273, 8, 51), SS Rich Aurilia (.277, 13, 58), LF Bonds (.341, 45, 90), 3B Edgardo Alfonzo (.259, 13, 81), C Benito Santiago (.279, 11, 56), CF Marquis Grissom (.300, 20, 79), RF Jose Cruz Jr. (250, 20, 68). Marlins - CF Pierre (.305, 1 HR, 41 RBIs), 2B Luis Castillo (.314, 6, 39), C Ivan Rodriguez (.297, 16, 85), 1B Derrek Lee (.271, 31, 92), 3B Miguel Cabrera (.268, 12, 62), RF Encarnacion (.270, 19, 94), LF Jeff Conine (.282, 20, 95), SS Alex Gonzalez (.256, 6, 18).
GIANTS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Kirk Rueter (10-5, 4.53 ERA). Rueter finished the regular season by winning three of his last four starts, yielding one earned run or fewer in each of those victories. The veteran left-hander is 3-3 with a 5.10 ERA in nine career starts at Pro Player Stadium. Rueter is 0-1 with a 4.40 ERA in three career appearances, including two starts, in Division Series play.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTING PITCHER: Mark Redman (14-9, 3.59 ERA). Redman came up big for the Marlins down the stretch, winning his last three decisions on his way to a 4-1 mark after Aug. 31. The left-hander has pitched especially well at home this year, going 6-4 with a sparkling 2.88 ERA. Redman boasts a 2.77 ERA in 15 career starts at Pro Player. He will be making his first career appearance against the Giants.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Giants - With OF Bonds being walked regularly, 2B Alfonzo, who bats fifth, has had to come through in the clutch. Thus far, he has delivered, going 4-for-8, including a two-run double in Game 2. … 2B Ray Durham is 4-for-17 (.235) in his career against LHP Redman. … The Giants swept a three-game series in Florida from May 6-8. Marlins - OF Conine has a career NLDS batting average of .368 (7-for-19). He has three hits in the first two games of this series. He is also batting .400 (6-for-15) in his career against LHP Rueter. … OF Pierre, who led the majors with 65 steals this season, picked up his first steal of the series in Game 2. … Both Pierre and 2B Castillo are 8-for-21 (.381) lifetime against Rueter.