Random Plate Appearance: Mike Lowell Goes Deep
It was Y2K, and the computers hadn’t killed us (yet). The Miami Marlins were three years removed from a World Series title, and three years from their second.
This is an article from the “Random Plate Appearance” series. I use the randomizer on the website random.org to give me a year and a game number, then I find the most impactful at bat of that game and break it down.
But it’s really not about the plate appearance in question. It’s about painting a picture of how that version of the Florida or Miami Marlins made you feel. 2000 wasn’t great, but it wasn’t half bad either. This was a time when Preston Wilson roamed the outfield. When guys named Luis Castillo and Mike Lowell held down the infield, and when Ryan Dempster made the all-star team on a minimum salary.
Today’s Season: 2000
Seasonal Game: 115, August 9th, 2000, Florida Marlins visit St. Louis Cardinals
Plate Appearance: 62-of-77, Cardinals reliever Matt Morris pitches to Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell.
Seasonal Outlook: The Florida Marlins won the World Series in their fifth season of existence. After that, something which would become way too common for the south Florida fanbase took place for the first of many times. The ownership group sold off all the important pieces for prospects, and the 1998 Marlins went 54-108, the worst season ever. Florida followed that with a 64-98 campaign in 1999, and in 2000 weren’t half bad. Going into the 115th game of the season, they sat at 57-56, third place in the National League East and 12 games behind the Atlanta Braves.
The St. Louis Cardinals were looking to rebound after going 75-86 in 1999, and doing a pretty good job of it. Entering the game, the Cards were holding down the division lead in the NL Central, at 61-51 and six games in front of the second place Cincinnati Reds.
St. Louis starter Andy Benes threw the games’ first pitch at 12:10 P.M. local time, on an afternoon that touched 110° on the heat index with 41,187 in attendance at Busch Stadium. It was a ball, to Florida Marlins leadoff hitter, second baseman Luis Castillo. Castillo struck out to end the at bat.
"It was hot, the hottest I’ve ever been. It’s different than Miami. No breeze. I can’t imagine what it was like when they had Astroturf. – Dempster, as quoted by David O’Brien at the Sun-Sentinel"
Cardinals right fielder J.D. Drew took Marlins starter Ryan Dempster deep for a two-run shot in the bottom of the first. It gave St. Louis a lead they would hold for most of the game.
Benes held the Marlins scoreless until the sixth inning, when Preston Wilson scored right fielder Mark Kotsay with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 2-1. In the bottom of the inning though, St. Louis shortstop Placido Polanco knocked in left fielder Ray Lankford to reestablish the Cardinals two-run lead.
After six innings, both pitchers were lifted. Dempster had five strikeouts and had allowed nine hits and a walk for three runs. Benes had the better of it, walking three and giving up four hits while striking out three. He also was the winning pitcher of record at the time.
The seventh inning would see Cardinals reliever Matt Morris set down catcher Mike Redmond, pinch-hitter Dave Berg, and Castillo 1-2-3. In the bottom of the inning, Marlins relief pitcher Armando Almanza induced second baseman Fernando Vina to fly out before walking J.D. Drew. Drew was soon afterward caught stealing by Mike Redmond, then center fielder Jim Edmonds lined out to end the inning.
Morris opened the eighth by walking Kotsay and allowing a double to future broadcaster Kevin Millar, who on that day was a left fielder. Chris Clapinski pinch-ran for Millar, and Wilson singled Kotsay home to cut into the Cardinals lead.
Our Plate Appearance
*Note – metrics were not recorded on a pitch-by-pitch basis in 2000, neither is video available. I used creative license to reconstruct the at bat to the best of my recollection.
Pitch one: Lowell was taking Morris’ 23rd pitch of the afternoon all the way, and watched it right down the pipe for strike one.
Pitch two: Pitch high in the zone, fouled back behind the plate. Already at 0-2, Lowell could not know this would go on for quite some time.
Pitch three: Ball low, easily laid off.
Pitch four: Wilson, on first, takes off for second as the pitch, a changeup is delivered. No throw.
Pitch five: With the count now 1-2, Lowell lays off a ball outside and high.
Pitch six: A four-seamer, which Lowell takes deep for his 17th round-tripper of the season. With one swing of the bat, a 3-2 deficit becomes a 5-3 lead.
"That was huge because the momentum shifted our way totally. Then we have Dan and Pulpo coming in, and I’ll take that to the bank against any team. – Lowell, as quoted by David O’Brien at the Sun-Sentinel."
The Rest of the Game
Matt Morris is instantly relieved by Mike James, who strikes out Derek Lee and Andy Fox. Mike Redmond then lines out to short to end the frame.
The Cardinals put runners on second and third in the bottom of the eighth, bout couldn’t capitalize on reliever Dan Miceli any further. Fernando Vina got on base against Antonio Alfonseca in the ninth with one out, but was stranded at first to end the game.
Florida Marlins: The Rest of the Season
The Florida Marlins posted a 21-26 record the rest of the way to finish the year at 79-82. They closed the season 15.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, who lost to these same Cardinals in the NLDS. Of course, the Cards then lost to the New York Mets in the NLCS, and the New York Yankees took care of them in the Subway Series.
Lowell remained with the Florida Marlins through the 2005 season, winning another World Series title in the process. He made three straight all-star teams, starting in 2002, and he’s fourth on the Marlins all-time games played leaderboard, with 981. He’s the Marlins record-holder with 241 doubles, ranks fourth with 143 home runs, and second with 578 RBI. Lowell went on to play another five seasons with the Boston Red Sox after departing the Marlins.
Morris went on to earn two all-star nods over the following two seasons, ranking third in the NL Cy Young Award voting. In an eventual 11-season MLB career for the Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, he was 121-92 with a 3.98 ERA.
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