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Unlikely Heroes Continue

This time, it's Gonzalez and Looper, whose surprising power and relief pitching epitomize the resilience that helps the Marlins avoid a huge deficit in series.

October 23, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Nothing seems to faze the Florida Marlins, who weren't expected to get this far but believe they're right where they belong.

The Marlins added another dramatic moment to a scrapbook full of improbable October memories Wednesday night during a 4-3, 12-inning victory over the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series.

Light-hitting shortstop Alex Gonzalez joined the Marlins' crowded list of postseason heroes with a leadoff home run down the left-field line off Jeff Weaver, igniting a wild celebration at the plate and among those who remained in a crowd of 65,934 at Pro Player Stadium.

"I can't put my head down," said Gonzalez, who has only six hits in 57 at-bats in the postseason. "I just keep going out there and doing the best I can."

Gonzalez's second hit of the World Series helped closer Ugueth Urbina get off the hook after the right-hander failed to preserve a two-run lead in the ninth inning, giving up a tying two-out, two-run triple to pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra.

Setup man Braden Looper, whom Urbina replaced as the full-time closer Sept. 22, also seized his opportunity to contribute after entering with one out and the bases loaded in the 11th.

As the Marlins rallied in the playoffs again, Looper inspired optimism after Urbina's ninth-inning letdown. Looper struck out Aaron Boone and got John Flaherty to pop out to third.

"We went to Looper for the simple reason that he's a power pitcher," Florida Manager Jack McKeon said. "We felt that he would be the guy that could strike out somebody. ... That's what he did."

The Marlins avoided a huge hole of a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series, pulling even at 2-2 with Game 5 here tonight.

The World Series will go back to Yankee Stadium for at least one game, and the Marlins definitely are not surprised.

"I guess a lot of teams have learned first-hand that we have tough character guys," said starter Carl Pavano, who dazzled in an eight-inning, one-run outing while outdueling six-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens in the future Hall of Famer's final start.

"We're all very self-confident. We're a self-confident team, self-confident young men, and we all know our roles. When you combine that it's a real team effort. It's the first time I've ever been involved with anything like this."

The Marlins stunned the National League in earning the wild-card berth, shocked the San Francisco Giants in the division series and added to the suffering of Chicago Cubs fans, overcoming a 3-2 deficit to capture the NL pennant at Wrigley Field.

Rebounding from a seemingly demoralizing ninth inning against the Yankees? The Marlins have been in tougher spots.

"Even when we were leading, 3-1, you're always concerned about just giving them an opening because of the experience that they have," McKeon said of the Yankees. "But this is probably the seventh or eighth time that we've done this: had the lead, lost it, battled out of a tough situation, got an opening and we cashed in."

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