For the Florida Marlins, make-or-break time arrives tonight when the World Series moves down to Miami for the first of three consecutive games, with the Marlins and the New York Yankees tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.
In the opener at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, the heavily favoured home side seemed sluggish on an evening that could only have been an anticlimax after their epic confrontation with the Boston Red Sox which ended less than 48 hours earlier.
A two-run single by Juan Pierre clinched a passionless 3-2 victory for the Marlins, and a whiff of a potential upset was in the air. But in Game Two on Sunday, the Yankees were back on cruise control.
Dreams of a 2-0 Marlins lead disappeared as Andy Pettitte, New York's most reliable pitcher, gave up just six hits, keeping the speedy Marlin runners off the bases.
It was the third time in a row during this post-season that Pettitte took the mound after a Game One Yankee loss, but the outcome was never in doubt after Hideki Matsui had smashed a three-run first-inning home run, on the way to a 6-1 Yankee victory. "You've got to tip your hat to Pettitte," the Marlins manager, Jack McKeon, said. "He kept us at bay. We had only a couple of infield hits for most of the game. Their pitching was better than our pitching tonight."
Now the Marlins must somehow overcome the Yankee's huge edge in starting pitching, and tonight may offer their best chance, when Josh Beckett, who looked all but unhittable against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series, goes against Mike Mussina.
Mussina is 0-3 this post-season, and has an unhappy knack of conceding the big hit at bad moments. A Marlins win tonight, followed by home advantage for the next two games, could pave the way for a second World Championship to go with their 1997 triumph.
That, however, was against the Cleveland Indians. Victory over the Yankees in the 100th anniversary of the World Series would be the biggest shock since 1990, when the Cincinnati Reds swept the supposedly invincible Oakland Athletics 4-0.
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