The Florida Marlins look a lot different these days than the team that defeated the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series. Lately, though, their play has resembled that of the club that captured the franchise’s second championship three years ago.
The Marlins go for their 11th win in 12 games when they take on the Yankees for the first time since that six-game victory in the Fall Classic.
The three-game series will be played at Yankee Stadium, where Josh Beckett pitched the Marlins to a 2-0 victory on Oct. 25, 2003 to give Florida the title.
Beckett, who threw a five-hitter and struck out nine in that game to earn World Series MVP honors, was traded to Boston during the offseason. Most of the other key players from that team have departed, as the club looked to slash payroll starting last season.
Florida, though, appears to again be on its way to quickly rebuilding itself into a contender—something the team also did after selling off much of its roster following a victory in the 1997 World Series. The Marlins (31-38) got back on track Thursday night after having their nine-game winning streak snapped, rallying from four runs down in the ninth inning and going on to defeat Baltimore 8-5 in 10 innings.
“I told them it was the greatest game they’ve played all year,” said Marlins manager Joe Girardi, the Yankees bench coach last season who also played on four New York world championship teams, and who will also be making his return to the Bronx.
Girardi’s team is 20-6 since being swept in consecutive series by Atlanta and Tampa Bay last month.
Girardi will send a hot pitcher to the mound Friday night, as Brian Moehler (5-5, 6.29 ERA) will look to win his third straight start. The right-hander pitched seven innings and allowed two runs in each of his last two outings, defeating San Diego and Toronto. He has won five of his last seven decisions, and has worked at least six innings in six of his last seven starts.
“I’m just pounding the strike zone, trying to be aggressive,” Moehler said. “Every time we walk out there, we have a good chance to win. We’re doing the little things to win ball games.”
Moehler is 3-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 10 starts against New York. He hasn’t faced the Yankees since July 6, 1999, while with Detroit. He gave up six runs and nine hits in 1 2-3 innings of the Tigers’ 9-8 defeat.
The Yankees (40-30) will counter Moehler with Chien-Ming Wang (7-3, 4.07), who’s coming off a heartbreaking loss in his last start. The right-hander was within two outs of his first career complete game Sunday, but surrendered a two-run walkoff homer to Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman and lost 3-2.
Despite the defeat, Wang has been outstanding in his last four games, going 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA and earning a save in the Yankees’ 6-5 win over Baltimore on June 3. He’s been at his best at home this season, going 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA in eight starts, and hasn’t lost at Yankee Stadium since April 21.
Wang has never faced the Marlins.
The Yankees bounced back from losing their last two games to the Nationals, and a defeat in the opener of their series in Philadelphia on Monday, with victories in the final two games of the set. New York defeated the Phillies 5-0 on Wednesday night, as Jaret Wright pitched five innings and five Yankees drove in runs.
“This is the way we’re supposed to pitch,” Proctor said. “We’re supposed to be able to get our three outs and get the ball to Mo. It was a good result, and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
New York leads the regular season series with Florida 8-6, but have dropped four of the last six meetings since winning six of the first eight. The teams haven’t met in the regular season since 2001.