Slumping Alex Gonzalez led off the bottom of the 12th inning with a home run and the Marlins survived yet another late Yankees jolt, beating New York 4-3 Wednesday night to even the World Series at two games each.
“This is a very interesting team,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “No, it doesn’t drain on me. I enjoy it.”
Everyone at Pro Player Stadium probably felt the same way.
A night that was supposed to belong to Clemens instead turned in Florida’s favor, ensuring that the Series will return to Yankee Stadium.
All of the Marlins applauded while popping flashbulbs lit up the park when the Rocket walked off after the seventh in what might have been his final appearance.
“It kind of just hits you a little bit, everything that’s happened over your career,” Clemens said.
But there was still a lot of ball left. Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra saved the Yankees with a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth that tied it at 3.
And it turned out the drama was just beginning once the clock passed midnight. At 12:28 a.m., Gonzalez hit a low line drive off Jeff Weaver that barely cleared the left-field wall for the win.
Gonzalez had been only 5-for-53 this postseason.
“I had a feeling,” Gonzalez said.
Weaver, the odd man out on the Yankees’ staff for most of the season, began warming up in the first inning when Clemens gave up three runs. Weaver took over in the 11th in his first appearance since Sept. 24.
“I felt fine. After not throwing to a lot of hitters for a long time, it was nice to get in there,” he said.
Both teams threatened in extra innings, with Marlins reliever Braden Looper escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th and posting the victory.
The Yankees had won seven straight extra-inning games in the Series since 1964. The previous two were among the most stirring in their storied history, set up when Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hit two-out, two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth on consecutive nights against Arizona’s Byung-Hyun Kim in 2001.
But the Marlins also knew a thing about late magic. Their last Series win at Pro Player was an 11-inning victory in Game 7 against Cleveland in 1997.
“That’s what this is all about. You’ve got two great teams that deserve to be here, and you saw great baseball tonight,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Torre and Clemens already have talked, in fact, about the Rocket being in the bullpen later in the Series.
While Clemens did not win, the Yankees at least made sure he did not lose.
Bernie Williams, who had four hits, singled with one out, Hideki Matsui walked and Jorge Posada grounded into a force play. David Dellucci came in to run for Posada, and Sierra fouled off two full-count pitches before tripling into the right-field corner.
All the elements were in place for Clemens’ coronation as one of the all-time greats. His place in the Hall of Fame is already assured, and the Yankees hoped he could go out with a win that would put them one victory for yet another championship.
But the plucky Marlins had other ideas.
Miguel Cabrera, only 1 when Clemens made his major league debut in 1984, put the Marlins ahead with a two-out, two-run homer in the first.
Florida had managed only two runs in the previous two games combined, and his fourth homer of this postseason gave the sellout crowd of 65,934 reason to believe.
Clemens gave up another run in the first, and ended the seventh by striking out Luis Castillo.
“We got five straight hits in the first inning we thought we were going to get to him early,” Florida’s Jeff Conine said. “It was really nice to see the crowd give him a sendoff like they did.”
Clemens’ teammates patted him on the back as he made his way to the bench, waving his hand. The ovation continued and Clemens came out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers from the Marlins, patting his heart and doffing his cap.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez clapped his hands as did the other Marlins, and McKeon saluted Clemens from the dugout. It made for a rare scene—opponents saluting someone on the other bench during a game that meant so much.
“Roger Clemens is the best pitcher ever. I’m very happy he finished strong,” Rodriguez said.
Clemens got a no-decision, leaving him at 3-0 lifetime in the World Series. The 41-year-old ace was trying to become the first 300-game winner to win in the Series since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1926.
Instead, he was outpitched by a guy who grew up idolizing him in Connecticut and later as a prospect in the Boston farm system.
Pavano shut down the Yankees on seven hits and one run over eight innings. He walked none, struck out four and helped himself by getting Derek Jeter to ground into two double plays.
Eager to get going, Clemens retired Juan Pierre and Castillo on easy grounders. Then suddenly, the Marlins’ hit parade started.
Rodriguez singled and Cabrera, after being backed off the plate by an inside fastball, reached out and hit a drive over the right-field wall.
Clemens bent over at the waist as he watched it sail, took a few steps toward the plate and simply signaled umpire Jeff Kellogg for a new ball.
Cabrera’s homer was the fourth of this postseason for the 20-year-old rookie.
Florida wasn’t finished, either. Conine, Mike Lowell and Derrek Lee singled for another run and a 3-0 lead, forcing Weaver to start warming up in the Yankees’ bullpen. The inning ended on Clemens’ 42nd pitch, with Gonzalez’s bid for a three-run homer falling short of the warning track.
Aaron Boone hit a sacrifice fly in the New York second.
This was the 13th time a Series game ended on a home run. Jeter did it last in 2001. … Only one World Series game went longer, Boston’s 14-inning win over Brooklyn in 1916. … Clemens was 1-0 in three previous interleaguestarts at Pro Player.