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Florida gets a good start from Penny and holds on for a 6-4 victory and a 3-2 edge over the Yankees, heading back to New York.

October 24, 2003|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Take your tales of torture somewhere else. In this land where the Fall Classic means teal shorts and flip-flops, where no one wonders whether the next championship parade will precede the next appearance of Halley's Comet, the Florida Marlins are 27 outs away from their second World Series title in seven years.

The Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, who have all been in business since before the World Series began in 1903, have each won the Series twice.

And the runts in teal, founded in 1993 and dumped by two owners within the past four years, are one victory away from their second title. Brad Penny, the latest unlikely hero on a team full of them, lifted the Marlins to a 6-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Thursday in Game 5 of the World Series.

"People are still wondering who half the guys are on this team," Florida center fielder Juan Pierre said.

Penny, demoted to the bullpen during the National League championship series, made his last start of his season the brightest of his life. With a fastball that whizzed by at up to 99 mph, Penny stopped the Yankees on two runs over seven innings and drove in two runs as well.

The crowd of 65,975 delighted in the last Marlin home game of the year, waving rally towels and singing anti-Yankee chants in joyful rhythm and cheering the Florida hitters, the Florida pitchers and the streaker who romped across the outfield in the eighth inning.

As the series shifts to Yankee Stadium on Saturday, the Marlins are far from overconfident.

"This is not the time to be relishing the moment," pitcher Josh Beckett said.

Beckett, the 23-year-old phenom, could start Game 6, pitching on three days' rest, fueled by a large chip on his shoulder.

"Nobody gives us any credit," he said. "It's always about curses and billy goats. That's what makes me mad. It's always about the other team and what they did wrong."

Florida's co-closers almost sabotaged their team again. After Ugueth Urbina coughed up a two-run lead in the ninth inning Wednesday, Braden Looper nearly coughed up a four-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday.

Looper started the ninth, inheriting a 6-2 lead. With one out, Jason Giambi, scratched from the Yankees' lineup because of a bum knee, delivered a pinch-hit home run. Derek Jeter singled, Enrique Wilson doubled home Jeter, and all of a sudden the Yankees had the potential tying run at the plate.

"It was a little scary," Florida Manager Jack McKeon said.

Urbina replaced Looper, and Bernie Williams crushed a fly ball to deep right-center field -- a home run at Yankee Stadium, but a 390-foot out at Pro Player Stadium. Hideki Matsui then grounded out, and the Marlins exploded onto the field in equal parts celebration and relief.

Ivan Rodriguez jumped into the air and sprinted to the mound, as best he could while dressed in catcher's gear.

"It was lot of adrenaline," he said.

The Yankees turn to Andy Pettitte to save their season, a consolation prize in defeat. New York lost the first game of the division series, the American League championship series and the World Series, and Pettitte won Game 2 every time.

The Angels lost Game 1 in all three rounds last year and still emerged as champions. The Yankees return home in the World Series trailing three games to two, just as the Angels did last year.

Although the Yankees have won four championships under Manager Joe Torre, they won twice in four games, once in five, once in six. They played one seven-game series and lost, to Arizona in 2001.

"We haven't been down this road many times," Torre said.

The Yankees, already fielding something of a JV lineup with Giambi out and Alfonso Soriano benched, lost starting pitcher David Wells after one inning because of back spasms.

Jose Contreras replaced Wells and promptly turned a 1-0 lead into a 3-1 deficit within a span of 14 pitches. With two out in the second, Mike Lowell walked on four pitches and Derrek Lee walked on seven. Alex Gonzalez, whose 12th-inning home run won Game 4, doubled home the tying run. Penny, a .132 hitter during the season, singled home two more.

Penny was money from there, holding the Yankees at bay while the Marlins scored once more off Contreras and twice off Chris Hammond. He threw as hard as 97 mph in the seventh inning, when a blister popped up on his middle finger. He demanded to finish the inning. When he got the final out, he screamed in joy and slammed his fist into his glove.

Of the Marlins' three victories in the series, Penny has two. The Yankees might not be finished with him.

In New York, he'll be available in the bullpen. He is willing to do whatever is in his power so that the upstart one-time champions knock out the 26-time champs, the pinstriped bluebloods. So much for baseball's natural order.

"It's a dream to pitch in the World Series," Penny said, "to beat a team like that."


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