MIAMI (AP)—They play with coolness and confidence and, yes, a little cockiness that makes their opponent look silly. Pitching is stellar, hitting comes through in the clutch and luck is on their side.
“I think the whole country now really sees what kind of players these guys are,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said.
Penny pumped his fist like crazy when he escaped his final threat and Gonzalez struck again with his Hall of Fame-bound bat as the Marlins seized a 3-2 lead.
“We haven’t been down this road many times,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Penny won for the second time in this Series, and the .143 career hitter helped himself with a two-run single as the Marlins rushed to a 6-1 lead. Yet the Yankees did not give up.
But when Bernie Williams’ bid for a tying two-run homer in the ninth was caught a few feet from the wall, their best chance was gone.
“It was a little scary,” McKeon said.
The sellout crowd of 65,975 at Pro Player Stadium pulsated all evening as Florida moved to the brink of an amazing upset. One man paid tribute in his own way—in the late innings, he ran across the entire outfield wearing only a Marlins cap.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner could merely shake his head after seeing this sudden reversal of fortune. The Boss’ club looked like a shell of itself, hardly the caliber of team that has won four of the last seven championships.
Slumping Alfonso Soriano was benched, Jason Giambi was hurt and starter David Wells left after one inning with an injury, leaving a lineup more suited to play Tampa Bay in June than Florida in October. Giambi hit a home run in the ninth as a pinch hitter to make it 6-3.
“You’ve got to be able to capitalize on that. And we were able to do it,” Florida first baseman Derrek Lee said.
Earlier this week, after Mike Mussina sent the Yankees to their second straight 6-1 win in Game 3, it looked as if they might simply overwhelm the Marlins and take the title in Miami. At least, it might have appeared that way to anyone who had never seen Florida.
Not anymore, not after Florida won in extra innings in Game 4 after blowing a lead in the ninth and then held on in its final home game of the season.
Still, the Marlins’ path to their second title in seven seasons is a treacherous one that leads right through Yankee Stadium.
Game 2 winner Andy Pettitte tries to save New York’s season when he starts Game 6 Saturday night.
Ever cautious, McKeon did not announce his starter, even after this victory. He toyed with the idea of using ace Josh Beckett on three days’ rest, and Mark Redman, the Game 2 loser, remains in the mix.
“We’ve got to stay tough. They ain’t going to hand it to us,” Beckett said. “We came back on the Cubs, we’ve seen it, we’ve been on that side of it. We need to bear down and try to win that first game.”
This will mark the first time since 1981 that the Yankees faced elimination at home in the World Series. That year, the Los Angeles Dodgers finished them off in Game 6.
Penny mowed down the Yankees for seven innings, giving up one earned run. He also took the opener, an impressive week for a guy who went 14-10 this year and lost his rotation spot in the NLCS after a bad outing.
Penny returned in relief in that series, though, and won Game 7 as the Marlins capped their comeback from a 3-1 deficit against Chicago.
“The NLCS, I had a bad day,” Penny said. “I’m just glad they gave me another chance to go out there.”
Bothered by an apparent blister, Penny gave up an RBI single to Derek Jeter in the seventh. Down 6-2, New York went on to load the bases with two outs before Williams—baseball’s career postseason leaders in homers and RBIs—hit a routine fly that got Penny celebrating.
After Enrique Wilson’s RBI double, Ugueth Urbina took over and faced the tying run. A night after giving up pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra’s tying, two-run triple with two outs in the ninth, Urbina got Williams on the long fly ball.
“I thought when he first hit it, it had a shot,” Torre said.
Urbina retired Hideki Matsui on a grounder to first for his second save.
“I knew they might get close, but we were going to close them out,” McKeon said.
Penny’s two-run single made it 3-1 in the third, an inning keyed by Gonzalez’s RBI double. Gonzalez was the star in Game 4 with a 12th-inning homer for a 4-3 victory.
Wells was forced to leave after the first inning, the victim of back spasms.
“You want to go in and try to go out there and give your team quality innings,” he said. “I think if I would have gone out there, I would have just fallen right to the ground.”
Jose Contreras relieved and took the loss with three shaky innings. New York’s defense didn’t help a lot, either.
Wilson, subbing for Soriano at second base, threw away a ball in a rundown that set up Mike Lowell’s two-run single in the fifth for a 6-1 lead.
Giambi was pulled from the starting lineup because of a bad left knee and replaced by Nick Johnson. Soriano also pinch hit, and struck out for the 26th time in this postseason.
Wells, who joked about his poor conditioning a day earlier, walked off the mound with a pained expression after the first inning. When David Dellucci pinch hit for Wells in the second, it was clear this was serious and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman left his seat in the stands and scooted up an aisle.
Contreras had already been heating up when he came in to replace Wells, and the Cuban right-hander went right to work.
“He had plenty of time,” Torre said. “He looked like he was getting anxious.”
Contreras retired his first two batters before issuing two walks and Gonzalez hit a drive that bounced over the wall in right-center field for an RBI double.
That brought up Penny, and the big pitcher reached out and hit a shot past Wilson for the 3-1 lead.
“It was a first-pitch fastball. I was swinging at the first pitch, no matter what,” Penny said.
Juan Pierre continued to cause problems for the Yankees with an RBI double in the fourth. Lee led off with a single and scored his second run of the game after moving up on Penny’s sacrifice.
Williams had a sacrifice fly in the first.
“We’ve just got to go up there and play our game and not put too much pressure on ourselves,” Pierre said. “They’ve got to win two games. That’sbig. We’ve only got to win one.”
Penny is the first starter to win twice in the opening five games of the Series since Livan Hernandez of Florida in 1997. … Wells’ outing was the shortest start in the Series since 1984 when San Diego’s Mark Thurmond retired only one batter in Game 5 at Detroit. … Jeter is the only player to have ahit in all five games.