Marlins close Rocket age with dramatic win

MIAMI -- Get out Ball, Alex Gonzalez shouted at his long, low line drive in the 12th inning. Get out Ball. He raced toward first base and glanced toward the left-field corner, could not see the ball and figured that it had hit the wall, until first base coach Perry Hill enlightened him.

Game 4 breakdown

Unsung Hero

Braden Looper. He entered the game with one out and the bases loaded in the top of the 11th inning and went on to strike out Aaron Boone and then induced John Flaherty to pop up to third base to end the inning. Looper then retired three of the four batters he faced in the 12th inning to earn the victory.


Jeff Weaver. When a pitcher gives up a game-winning home run, there's no other place for him than this brutal spot. The pitch Weaver served up to Alex Gonzalez that was lined over the left-field wall continued a most disastrous season for the Yankees' righty.

Turning Point

While Weaver retired the Marlins in order in the 11th inning, he didn't keep his good fortune going in the 12th. Gonzalez was the first batter of the inning and ran the count full before winning the game with a home run.

It Figures

The Marlins entered Game 4 having not hit a single home run in the first three games of the series. They put an end to that as they hit two homers in this game, the first of which was a two-run blast by Miguel Cabrera in the first inning.

On Deck

David Wells vs. Brad Penny in Game 5 on Thursday. This will be a rematch of Game 1 when the Marlins outlasted the Yankees, 3-2. It's now a best-of-three series.

"You got it!" Hill shouted. "You got it!" And by that time Gonzalez's Florida teammates already were barreling out of the dugout to celebrate the 12th inning home run that beat the Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series, 4-3, and revitalized the Marlins. Gonzalez's shot was the first World Series walkoff homer against the Yankees since Pittsburgh's Bill Mazeroski beat them to end the 1960 World Series.

Florida and the Yankees are tied in the best-of-seven series two games apiece; the Yankees' David Wells will pitch against the Marlins' Brad Penny in Game 5 Thursday, before the series shifts to Yankee Stadium for Games 6 and perhaps Game 7 over the weekend.

While Gonzalez's teammates pummeled him happily at home plate, Jeff Weaver walked slowly off the mound, having surrendered the deciding home run. The Yankees could have extrapolated so much from this game if they had won -- greater joy in the last career start of Roger Clemens, greater satisfaction from their ninth-inning comeback that forced the game into extra innings, and a commanding lead. If the Yankees could have finished off their comeback and capitalized on scoring chances in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings, they would have been in position to clinch their 27th championship Thursday.

Instead, they're even. It was the only the second time in Joe Torre's eight-year tenure as Yankees' manager that New York surrendered an extra-inning run in the postseason, and the first time they had lost an extra-inning World Series game since 1964. "We had our opportunities," Derek Jeter said.

Clemens was illuminated by flashbulbs from the moment he stepped onto the field to warm up, and when he threw his first pitch of the game, the explosions of light around him took him aback. The last minutes of a career 20 years long -- spanning 310 victories and 4,099 strikeouts -- were being logged by thousands.

But the moments of good feeling were brief for Clemens. With two outs and nobody on base in the first, Ivan Rodriguez singled. Florida rookie Miguel Cabrera, born one year and 27 days before Clemens made his major-league debut, stepped into the batter's box and Clemens appeared to immediately test the rookie, the way he has tested so many hitters during his career.

Clemens threw a 92-mph fastball in the vicinity of Cabrera's chin. The rookie stepped forward to swing and then bent back, before turning and staring at Clemens, either surprised or annoyed or both. The next pitch was a 94-mph fastball, over the outside corner, and Cabrera swung weakly, his backside seemingly falling toward the dugout on the third-base side, a natural response to the prior nose-high fastball.

But Cabrera dug in, fouling off an inside fastball when the count was two balls and two strikes, then fighting off a splitter. The Yankees' pitchers in Games 1 and 2 had confused the 20-year-old a bit, moving the ball around in the strike zone, and Cabrera had gone hitless in seven at-bats. Cabrera adjusted his approach in Game 3, aiming his swing to the opposite field, and he had slammed a couple of hits that way against Mike Mussina.

With the count 2-2, Clemens tried to throw a fastball past Cabrera, high and outside, only the sixth pitch after Clemens had buzzed him with a fastball, and Cabrera reached across the plate and smashed the fastball to deep right field.

Clemens remained in his follow through, following the flight of Cabrera's drive, and when the ball disappeared over the right-field wall, a two-run homer, Clemens turned and asked for a new ball. Cabrera jogged steadily around the bases, not too fast, not too slow; he had earned this trip.

The Marlins added a run on consecutive singles that followed, and Weaver began warming up in the bullpen. Clemens got the last out, and the Yankees scored a run in the second off Carl Pavano. But Florida's 3-1 lead would hold up into the late innings, and when Clemens walked out to pitch the seventh, it was apparent this was his last inning. Clemens walked out to throw the bottom of the seventh.

As Luis Castillo batted with two outs in the seventh, flash bulbs started popping as Clemens prepared to throw each pitch -- all of which had the potential for being his last pitch in the majors. Castillo worked the count full, fouling off pitches repeatedly, the flash bulbs erupting as Clemens released the ball.

Finally, Clemens reached back and then whipped a 94 mph fastball and Castillo watched it, for strike three, and at 10:43 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, it appeared the long career of Roger Clemens had come to an end.

He slapped his glove excitedly walking off the field, and the fans in Pro Player Stadium stood and began cheering, the reaction rising; the Marlins were standing at the front of their dugout, as well, clapping. Clemens, surrounded by teammates offering congratulations, stepped out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers, waving his cap, twice gesturing to thank the Marlins for their response, tapping his heart. "At that point, everything started to slow down for me," Clemens said.

But there were more palpitations to come. "With a Yankee ballclub like they are, they are experienced guys; even when we were leading 3-1, you're always concerned," said Florida manager Jack McKeon.

Pavano told McKeon and pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal that he was tiring, and after eight innings, closer Ugueth Urbina relieved Pavano for the ninth. Bernie Williams laced a single with one out, and then Hideki Matsui drew a walk. Jorge Posada bounced a grounder to second base, and Matsui was forced out.

The Yankees were down to their last out, and Torre inserted David Dellucci as a pinch-runner for Posada, and Ruben Sierra as a pinch-hitter for Karim Garcia. Urbina fell behind three balls and no strikes, and nicked the outside corner with two fastballs, running the count full.

Sierra fouled off a fastball. And another. Florida catcher Ivan Rodriguez signaled for another fastball, except this one didn't tail over the outside corner, like this others; this fastball was over the middle, and Sierra jumped it, pulling a line drive down the right field line, fair.

The ball rolled into the corner, and Williams scored before turning and waving for Dellucci -- a pinch-runner for Arizona in the last inning of the 2001 World Series -- to score. The game was tied, and the 65,000 fans who had stood to cheer the last strike murmured instead.

Jose Contreras pitched the ninth and 10th innings for the Yankees, extending the game; with Juan Pierre in scoring position in the 10th, Contreras cut down Ivan Rodriguez with a 98-mph fastball and then Cabrera with a 97-mph fastball.

The Yankees had a runner on base in the 10th and couldn't score. Williams, swinging better than any of the Yankees in the two games played here, led off the 11th by pulling a double into the right field corner, his fourth hit in this game. Fox walked Matsui, and both runners advanced on Dellucci's sacrifice. The Marlins intentionally walked Juan Rivera, loading the bases, and then McKeon called on reliever Braden Looper, both manager and pitcher hoping for a ground ball.

Aaron Boone, the 11th-inning hero in the playoff final against Boston, fouled off four pitches -- and struck out. And John Flaherty, who had taken over for Posada at catcher, popped weakly to third, ending the threat. The turning point of the game, McKeon thought.

The Marlins' lineup is stacked with right-handed batters, more vulnerable to right-handed pitchers, and with Torre holding out Mariano Rivera in case the Yankees took a lead, his last right-hander was Weaver, who had not pitched in four weeks. He had been relegated after getting rocked repeatedly.

But Weaver warmed up and found he could throw his fastball and his slider for strikes. "I felt good," he said. " I wasn't thinking about the past month or two."

Weaver set down the Marlins in order in the 11th; the Yankees failed to score in the 12th. Then Alex Gonzalez led off bottom of the 12th for Florida, 5-for-53 in the postseason, a virtual zero for the Florida offense. "I was just thinking I wanted to put the ball in play," Gonzalez said later.

Weaver had a sharp slider and he used it early in Gonzalez's at-bat. But the count went full and like Urbina in the ninth, Weaver threw a fastball. Gonzalez fouled off the ball. Weaver threw another fastball -- another foul ball. Weaver looked in for a sign and shook off the sign, following a directive from Flaherty, who wanted to try to confuse Gonzalez.

When Weaver stepped back on the rubber, he wanted to throw a slider. Flaherty called for a fastball, outside; Weaver agreed to the choice. "Irrelevant," Weaver said later, when asked about how he selected his last pitch to Gonzalez.

Flaherty set his target outside and Weaver threw his fastball -- but the ball drifted over the middle of the plate, to the inner half. Gonzalez swung and began running toward first base, trying to spot the ball.

He'll be able to see it Thursday, on all the channels here. Over and over.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.