NEW YORK (AP)—The plan was to disrupt, confuse and beat the New York Yankees—and it worked.
Proving these Fish can fly, Juan Pierre and the Florida Marlins had the Yankees on the run from the very start. They stole the World Series opener 3-2 Saturday night, beating a team that looked as if it was still recovering from its last game.
“We’re going to try to create havoc for the rest of the series,” Pierre said. “We let them know what we’re about, that we’re going to keep pressure on them all Series.”
True to form, the Yankees showed up in the ninth inning and threatened after drawing a pair of walks. But somehow the Marlins held on, with Pierre streaking in from center field to catch the final out with two runners on.
“We bring our style to the Stadium,” Pierre said.
The game also turned on a pair of throws—a nifty pickoff by Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez and a questionable relay by Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone, the hero of New York’s Game 7 win over Boston.
New York also lost the openers in their other two postseason series this year, to Minnesota and the Red Sox and Pettitte followed both with a win.
“It’s not something you plan,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “It’s nice to have that track record.”
Pierre led the majors with 65 steals this season and the Marlins had the most overall. They showed off their speed in a hurry with Pierre leading off with a bunt single and Luis Castillo following with a hit-and-run single.
“When you have one of those speed guys on, you certainly don’t want a merry-go-round,” Torre said. “Speed definitely makes the difference. We got a first-hand look at it tonight.”
With that quick start, the wild-card Marlins were off in this 100th anniversary Series. Pierre later added a two-run single and a stolen base as Florida defeated David Wells and ended New York’s record string of 10 straight home Series wins.
“I don’t know why we should be awed. It’s a credit to the players. They don’t worry about where they’re playing,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
These Yankees seemed spent, needing 11 innings to finish off the Red Sox in a draining but spectacular game that lasted into Friday’s wee hours. The Marlins also needed seven games to beat the Cubs in the league championship series, but had an extra day to rest.
Rodriguez starred in his Series debut. The NLCS MVP hit a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat and the 10-time Gold Glove catcher later nailed Johnson at third base to cut short a rally.
“When you play aggressive defense, things are going to happen,” Rodriguez said. “It could’ve been a big inning right there. That one was a perfect throw, inches from Johnson’s helmet.”
The biggest play, however, might have come on Pierre’s tiebreaking single in the fifth. Boone failed to throw to the plate and allowed Juan Encarnacion to score from second.
“Those plays happen all the time,” Boone said. “I saw Encarnacion pass me.”
The play angered Wells, who spun around in disgust while backing up.
“You look at it on TV, but it’s the heat of the moment,” Wells said. “I saw where the runner was at, but he tried to cut off the ball and make a play at first. I’m not going to second guess.”
Penny, bumped from the NLCS rotation after a poor start against Chicago, did a nice job in limiting New York to two runs in 5 1-3 innings. He got the win, three days after being credited with the Game 7 victory in relief against the Cubs.
Willis, the 21-year-old All-Star rookie, bounded off the mound after 2 1-3 scoreless innings and exchanged a chest bump with Urbina after the closer struck out Jorge Posada with runners on first and third to end the eighth.
Pierre put the Marlins ahead 3-1 with his single. The inning began when Jeff Conine drew an uncharacteristic walk from Wells, the best control pitcher in the majors this season.
Encarnacion singled and the Marlins stuck with their small-ball ways as Alex Gonzalez sacrificed the runners into scoring position.
The Yankees rearranged their defense when Pierre stepped up, pulling in their infield and moving center fielder Bernie Williams toward left and into a medium-shallow spot.
Pierre slapped a sharp single past shortstop Derek Jeter, and the Marlins were off. Even though left fielder Hideki Matsui was on the ball quickly, third-base coach Ozzie Guillen kept waving home Encarnacion from second.
Encarnacion was halfway between third and home when Boone caught Matsui’s relay on the infield grass. But Boone never looked home, where he appeared to have a play, and instead made a late attempt to nab Pierre rounding first.
“I didn’t want another runner to get to second. I saw Pierre way off base,” Boone said.
Williams hit his 18th career postseason homer, tying the record shared by Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson. The solo shot in the sixth pulled the Yankees within 3-2 and was his fourth World Series home run—he’s hit most of his in playoff games, unlike Jackson and The Mick.
Williams added a single in the eighth for his 100th career postseason hit.
The sellout crowd of 55,769 sounded a bit subdued until Jeter hit an RBI single in the third. After that, the familiar chant of “Let’s Go, Yankees!” began to reverberate through the ballpark.
With runners at the corners later in the inning, Penny escaped without further damage—with a big assist from Rodriguez.
After Williams hit a shallow fly ball for the second out, Rodriguez snapped a throw to third baseman Mike Lowell that picked off a scrambling Johnson. Rodriguez is known for his cannon arm and his confidence in using it at any time—Matsui was at the plate with a 2-1 count when Pudge unleashed it.
The Marlins hoped their speed would cause problems for the Yankees. It did, right away.
Pierre led off the game with a bunt single, pushing the ball past Wells into the Bermuda Triangle between first base, second base and the mound. A day earlier, preparing for his first game at Yankee Stadium, he practiced that exact play and tested how slick the infield grass was.
“With the bunt, they didn’t look comfortable the rest of the game,” Pierre said. “The next time up, I could hear the bench coach yelling, ‘Move up, Soriano.”’
Pierre was running when Castillo followed with a little blooper to the right side. The ball would’ve been an easy play for Soriano at second base, but he was covering the bag and the ball fell for a hit-and-run single as Pierre cruised into third.
Rodriguez picked up right where he left off in the first two rounds, hitting a sacrifice fly in his first Series at-bat. He has 17 RBIs in 12 postseasongames this year.
Wells fell to 10-3 in his postseason career. … Rodriguez has 72 career pickoffs. … Among the celebrities in the crowd: Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson and Spike Lee,normally seen courtside at New York Knicks’ games.