10/01/2003 7:45 PM ET
Giants struck down by Fish sticks
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
Game wrap: Marlins 9, Giants 5
SAN FRANCISCO -- Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Giants in their 9-5 loss to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday at Pacific Bell Park, in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
Weirdness abounded for the Giants this day, as a mind-of-its-own wind played tricks in the outfield, as Gold Glovers atypically booted the ball and the bullpen's almost impenetrable armor proved flawed.
From starting pitcher Sidney Ponson's brief and stormy postseason debut to a 4-1 lead that all too quickly vanished, it seemed that even this friendly, lovely ballpark hard by the San Francisco Bay had suddenly growled and bit the hands that feed it.
So much for a home-field advantage.
Still, no excuses, said the Giants, who wing their way to Miami for the critical Game 3 in the best-of-five series tied with the Wild Card Marlins 1-1.
The bottom line is that the Floridians -- impetuous youths as they are -- took advantage of every miscue, every errant pitch, every fateful gust, and beat the Giants at their own game: key hits, steady relief and solid glovework.
"It has been really odd the last few days here," said Giants first baseman J.T. Snow, who uncharacteristically saw a hot grounder zip through his legs in the seventh, helping the Marlins to a run. "I've never seen the winds or gusts or currents go like they have been -- there were some weird plays."
Indeed. Jose Cruz Jr. has been a defensive magician in right field all year, but he didn't expect to pull a now-you-see-it, now-you-don't stunt in the sixth as he targeted a Juan Pierre hit that appeared to be hooking foul, then suddenly blew fair.
At that critical moment, Cruz slipped in the mud, and the fly dropped for two big runs.
Snow was stunned. "That ball was hooking foul, then the ball came back into play -- I've never seen it do that. It was so weird, that ball being held up."
But, added Snow, you have to give the Marlins credit.
"They capitalized," he said. "They're a good team, and now we know the reason they're here. They hit the ball good today. Even with a 4-1 lead, you're never satisifed until the third out in the last inning. You've got to play until there's 27 outs."
Snow said that he flat missed the Miguel Cabrera sizzler that somehow escaped his grasp. Well, it was that kind of day.
Cruz's spirits weren't down despite the loss and that weird play.
"I thought I had it all the way, and I was ready to catch it over my left shoulder after getting a good jump," said Cruz of Pierre's deep fly. "I just happened to step on some mud in the corner. Bad luck, really.
"There were a lot of tough plays, and they kept the pressure on us," he added. "We didn't make the plays, and anytime we didn't they ended up scoring runs. They just played better today. But we'll throw this one out the window, and we'll get them on Friday."
Another costly play was a run-scoring liner by Derrek Lee in the eighth to veteran center fielder Marquis Grissom, another Gold Glover who also appeared to have the drive locked in, only to see it bounce off the heel of his glove as he raced full-bore.
"We just didn't get it done, and they played good ball," said Grissom. "Cruz's ball was tough, and I should have caught my ball, no doubt about it. But we'll have to continue to play and not panic. That's the biggest key."
Joe Nathan's relief appearance was also costly, as the Marlins took a 7-5 lead -- that was the ballgame -- into the seventh, with the right-hander giving up a solo homer to Juan Encarnacion plus three straight singles, capped off by Pierre's funny fly off reliever Jason Christiansen that eluded Cruz.
Nathan had a spectacular season, with a 12-4 record and 2.96 ERA, but this was not to be the 28-year-old right-hander's day -- just as it wasn't to be the Giants'.
"We haven't had too many of these games, but we have had some," said Nathan. "Encarnacion was really the one pitch that got away from me. I left it in the middle of the plate on a breaking ball, and he did what he was supposed to do.
"It was unfortunate that we had a bad game in a big one like this, but at the same time, it's only 1-1, and we'll go the Florida and keep playing hard."
That's exactly what manager Felipe Alou felt as the Giants packed their bags for Wednesday's overnight flight to Florida, where Pro Player Stadium will be rocking, the weather will be muggy, and the young Marlins hope their victory over the veteran Giants will have a carry-over affect.
"Experience should help us going with a tie, going to the place they tell me is going to be 50,000 people who really were afraid they were going to lose their team," said Alou. "They're going to be all-out for their club.
"But it helps," he added, "to have a team that's been around like our club has been around."
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.