- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2003

MIAMI — Now look who’s the team to beat in this World Series.

Cool, confident and even a little bit cocky, the Florida Marlins are just one win from another championship, beating the banged-up and bumbling New York Yankees 6-4 in Game 5 last night.

Brad Penny pumped his fist like crazy when he escaped his final threat and Alex Gonzalez struck again with his Hall of Fame-bound bat as the Marlins seized a 3-2 lead with a surprisingly easy victory.

Down 6-1, the Yankees did not give up. But when Bernie Williams’ bid for a tying two-run homer in the ninth was caught a few feet from the wall, their best chance was gone.

The sellout crowd of 65,975 at Pro Player Stadium pulsated all evening as Florida moved to the brink of an amazing upset. One man paid tribute in his own way — in the late innings, he ran across the entire outfield wearing only a Marlins cap.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner could merely shake his head after seeing this sudden reversal of fortune. The Boss’ club looked like a shell of itself, hardly championship caliber.

Slumping Alfonso Soriano was benched, Jason Giambi was hurt and starter David Wells left after one inning with an injury, leaving a lineup more suited to play Tampa Bay in June than Florida in October. Giambi hit a home run in the ninth as a pinch hitter to make it 6-3.

Earlier this week, after Mike Mussina sent the Yankees to their second straight 6-1 win in Game 3, it looked as if they might simply overwhelm the Marlins and take the title in Miami. At least, it might have appeared that way to anyone who had never seen Florida.

Not anymore.

Still, the Marlins’ path to their second title in seven years is a treacherous one that leads right through Yankee Stadium.

Game 2 winner Andy Pettitte tries to save New York’s season when he starts Game 6 tomorrow night. Ever cautious, and ready to make anyone available to win, Marlins manager Jack McKeon did not announce his starter in advance.

This will mark the first time since 1981 that the Yankees have faced elimination at home in the World Series. That year the Los Angeles Dodgers finished them off in Game 6.

Penny mowed down the Yankees for seven innings, giving up one earned run to earn his second win of the Series. He also took the opener, an impressive week for a guy who went 14-10 this year and lost his rotation spot in the National League Championship Series after a bad outing.

Bothered by an apparent blister, Penny gave up an RBI single to Derek Jeter in the seventh. Down 6-2, New York went on to load the bases with two outs before Williams — baseball’s career postseason leaders in homers and RBI — hit a routine fly that got Penny celebrating.

Dontrelle Willis pitched a scoreless eighth, and reliever Braden Looper gave up Giambi’s pinch-hit homer in the ninth. The Yankees never give up, and Jeter followed with a single for his third hit.

After Enrique Wilson’s RBI double, Ugueth Urbina took over and faced the tying run. A night after giving up pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra’s tying, two-run triple with two outs in the ninth, Urbina got Williams on the long fly ball and Hideki Matsui on a grounder to first for his second save.

Penny also contributed at the plate. His two-run single made it 3-1 in the third, an inning keyed by Gonzalez’s RBI double. Gonzalez was the star in Game 4 with a 12th-inning homer for a 4-3 victory.

Wells was forced to leave after the first inning, the victim of back spasms. Jose Contreras relieved and took the loss with three shaky innings.

New York’s defense didn’t help a lot, either. Wilson, subbing for Soriano, threw away a ball in a rundown that set up Mike Lowell’s two-run single in the fifth for a 6-1 lead.

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