Marlins beat Giants with 11th-inning hit

Saturday, October 4, 2003

MIAMI -- Ivan Rodriguez circled the bases pumping his fist, then pointed at the jubilant, towel-twirling crowd before he crossed the plate.

That was in the first inning after Rodriguez's two-run homer. Nearly four hours later, he found himself in the middle of an even bigger celebration.

The catcher nicknamed "Pudge" lined a two-run single with two outs in the 11th inning Friday to cap a comeback by the Florida Marlins, who beat San Francisco 4-3 and took a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five playoff series.

"Having that kind of game made me feel pretty good," Rodriguez said. "It was one of the best games of my career."

Edgardo Alfonzo's RBI single in the top of the 11th put San Francisco ahead 3-2, but right fielder Jose Cruz Jr. dropped a routine fly to start Florida's comeback. The Giants stranded a record 18 runners, including at least one in scoring position in each of the final seven innings.

With Barry Bonds and the defending NL champions on the brink of elimination, right-hander Jason Schmidt will probably start today on three days' rest. He threw a three-hit shutout to beat the Marlins in Game 1.

Rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis will pitch for Florida.

After Rodriguez homered, the Marlins were shut out until Cruz gave them an opening in the 11th. He drifted toward the foul line, tried to make a one-handed catch of Jeff Conine's fly and dropped the ball -- to the surprise and delight of 61,488 fans.

"I've never dropped one like that," Cruz said. "It hit my glove and fell out. I should have caught it and I didn't."

Tim Worrell walked Alex Gonzalez. Miguel Cabrera sacrificed and Juan Pierre was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Luis Castillo grounded back to Worrell, who made a lunging, barehanded stop and forced Conine at the plate. But Rodriguez lined a 1-2 fastball for a hit to right field.

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