In the wee hours Thursday morning, Alex Gonzalez broke out of his slump in stunning fashion, leading off the bottom of the 12th inning with a home run that lifted the Marlins over the Yankees 4-3 to even the series.
The night had a warm-and-fuzzy feel when Roger Clemens walked off the mound after seven innings in what might have been the future Hall of Fame pitcher's final appearance. Flashbulbs lit up Pro Player Stadium and everyone in the park cheered him, including the Marlins.
"It kind of just hits you a little bit, everything that's happened over your career," Clemens said. "When you battle like I have over my career and you get the respect of your peers, that's all you can ask for."
Marlins fans weren't so appreciative when the Yankees showed their penchant for providing a late-inning jolt in October. BEGIN POSITION 3 END POSITION 3
Pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra saved the Yankees with a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth that tied it at 3. And the drama was just beginning once the clock passed midnight.
At 12:28 a.m., Gonzalez hit a low line drive off Jeff Weaver that barely cleared the left-field wall, right in front of a sign reading "1997 World Champions."
Gonzalez had been only 5-for-53 this postseason. He had been 0-for-4 in this game, striking out twice against Clemens.
Weaver, the odd man out on the Yankees' staff for most of the season, began warming up in the first inning when Clemens gave up three runs.
Weaver took over in the 11th in his first appearance since Sept. 24.
"I felt fine. After not throwing to a lot of hitters for a long time, it was nice to get in there," he said.
Both teams threatened in extra innings, with Marlins reliever Braden Looper escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th and posting the victory.
"This is a very interesting team," Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. "No, it doesn't drain on me. I enjoy it."
The Yankees had won seven straight extra-inning games in the Series since 1964. The previous two were among the most stirring in their storied history, set up when Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius hit two-out, two-run homers in the bottom of the ninth on consecutive nights against Arizona's Byung-Hyun Kim in 2001.
But the Marlins also knew a thing about late magic. Their last Series win at Pro Player was an 11-inning victory in Game 7 against Cleveland in 1997.
"That's what this is all about. You've got two great teams that deserve to be here, and you saw great baseball tonight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Torre and Clemens already have talked, in fact, about the Rocket being in the bullpen later in the Series.
While Clemens did not win, the Yankees at least made sure he did not lose.
Shut down for eight innings by Carl Pavano, New York came back in the ninth against Ugueth Urbina.
Bernie Williams, who had four hits, singled with one out, Hideki Matsui walked and Jorge Posada grounded into a force play. David Dellucci came in to run for Posada, and Sierra fouled off two full-count pitches before tripling into the right-field corner.
All the elements were in place for Clemens' coronation as one of the all-time greats. His place in the Hall of Fame is already assured, and the Yankees hoped he could go out with a win that would put them one victory for yet another championship.
But the plucky Marlins had other ideas.
Miguel Cabrera, only 1 when Clemens made his major league debut in 1984, put the Marlins ahead with a two-out, two-run homer in the first. Clemens gave up another run in the first.
Clemens finished his outing by striking out Luis Castillo.
"We got five straight hits in the first inning we thought we were going to get to him early," Florida's Jeff Conine said. "It was really nice to see the crowd give him a sendoff like they did."
Clemens' teammates patted him on the back as he made his way to the bench, waving his hand. The ovation continued and Clemens came out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers from the Marlins, patting his heart and doffing his cap.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez clapped his hands as did the other Marlins, and McKeon saluted Clemens from the dugout. It made for a rare scene - opponents saluting someone on the other bench during a game that meant so much.
"Roger Clemens is the best pitcher ever. I'm very happy he finished strong," Rodriguez said.
When Clemens came to bat earlier, Rodriguez tapped him on the leg.
"He said, 'Nice career' or something like that," Clemens said. "I think I said, 'It's been fun battling.' He said, 'It's been great.'"
The 41-year-old ace was trying to become the first 300-game winner to win in the Series since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1926.
Instead, he was outpitched by a guy who grew up idolizing him in Connecticut and later as a prospect in the Boston farm system.
Pavano shut down the Yankees on seven hits and one run over eight innings. He walked none, struck out four and helped himself by getting Derek Jeter to ground into two double plays.
Notes:@ This was the 13th time a Series game ended on a home run. Jeter did it last in 2001. ... Only one World Series game went longer, Boston's 14-inning win over Brooklyn in 1916. ... Clemens was 1-0 in three previous interleague starts at Pro Player.