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Rodriguez's Play Is a Showstopper

Catcher hangs on to ball on collision at the plate to prevent Giants from scoring tying run and help Marlins win, 7-6, to clinch NL division series.

October 05, 2003|Juan C. Rodriguez | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

MIAMI — The replay ran multiple times from multiple angles on the Pro Player Stadium Jumbotron. Here were the Florida Marlins, frolicking about in real time after eliminating the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, and the largest crowd to attend a division series game couldn't take its collective eyes off the massive screens.

With each clip of J.T. Snow plowing through Ivan Rodriguez at the plate, 65,494 unbelieving spectators responded with louder awe, as if every viewing were the first.

They reacted to Rodriguez absorbing the blow and holding up the ball from under Ugueth Urbina's embrace for all to see. They reacted to the Marlins winning the best-of-five series with a 7-6 victory in Game 4 and sustaining their bid for a National League pennant.

"I said it from the time they gave me the opportunity to come to this team," said Rodriguez, who along with the other Marlins will face the winner of tonight's Chicago-Atlanta game in the National League championship series starting Tuesday. "This team was going to be in the playoffs and play well."

What may become the most replayed sequence in Marlin history next to Craig Counsell scoring the World Series-winning run culminated another muscle-contorting contest. This one saw 20-year-old rookie Miguel Cabrera go four for five with three runs batted in and the pivotal hit.

At least the one involving a bat.

Having scored a quick run against Urbina in the ninth inning, the Giants had runners on first and second with two out for Jeffrey Hammonds. His single to left sent Snow barreling from second, representing the tying run.

Snow took a wide turn at third, which helped Rodriguez have enough time to secure Jeff Conine's throw and brace himself for impact. The son of former NFL receiver Jack Snow, J.T. launched himself at Rodriguez, who was thrown back but never lost his vice grip on the ball.

"You can't get any better than this," Conine said. "When you're in a situation like this, a crowd like this, and to come out and win a game like this is awesome....I knew I wasn't going to catch it, so I just tried to get it in my glove and make a good transfer on the way home."

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the dramatic ending marked the first time that a postseason series ended with the potential tying run thrown out at the plate

Half an inning earlier, Rodriguez was on the other end of a collision at the plate. He took out Yorvit Torrealba on Cabrera's opposite-field, two-out single to right field against Felix Rodriguez. Jose Cruz Jr.'s two-hop throw was up the third base line and arrived just before Rodriguez put a shoulder into his counterpart. The ball came dislodged, allowing Derrek Lee to score the winning run all the way from first.

Cabrera got the start at third base one day after Manager Jack McKeon had benched him in favor of Mike Lowell.

"It's like a dream for me," said Cabrera, who made his major league debut June 20. "I just wanted to put the ball in play. I knew he was going to throw me the fastball outside to get ahead, but I put a good swing on it."

That was Cabrera's fourth good swing. Four innings earlier, he drove in two runs with a two-out single against reliever Jim Brower, giving the Marlins a 5-1 lead. He doubled in his first two at-bats.

Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins were in control through five as the rookie left-hander held the Giants to a run on one hit. Torrealba knocked in his team's first run with a second-inning sacrifice fly, the first of 11 consecutive batters Willis retired.

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