Florida Marlins Random Plate Appearance: Kevin Gregg’s Big Scare
The year was 2007, and the iPhone was in its first iteration, Prince played the Super Bowl, and 300 was in the theaters.
The Florida Marlins were four years removed from their second World Series title, and had already suffered through three (of eventually six) fire sales. In today’s article, another (almost) Random Plate Appearance piece, I selected a season and a game of that season at random. I then dug into the box score to find the most impactful plate appearance of the game.
This series isn’t as much about a single plate appearance in a long season, it’s more about how that version of the Florida Marlins, and later the Miami Marlins, had you living and dying on every pitch. In 2007, we had guys like Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla up the middle, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Jacobs on the corners, Cody “The Boss” Ross in left field, and pitchers with names like Sergio Mitre, Byung-Hyun Kim, and Taylor Tankersley. Ramirez and Cabrera combined for 400 hits that season, and the team had a collected 201 home runs.
Today’s Season: 2007
Seasonal Game: 137, September 2nd, 2007, Florida Marlins host Philadelphia Phillies
Plate Appearance: 87-of-87
Florida Marlins Seasonal Outlook
The Florida Marlins didn’t crash and burn after their 2003 selloff. It was a very slow, sad decline. The 2004 and 2005 teams both racked up 83-79 records, and in 2006 they were 78-84. Going into the game on September 2nd, the Marlins were tied for last in the National League East, at 59-77 with the Washington Nationals, 16.5 games behind the division leading New York Mets. The Phillies, at 72-63, were only three games back. Florida and Philadelphia had split the first two of this three-game set.
Although the Marlins weren’t technically eliminated from postseason consideration at the time of this contest, things were looking very grim. The Phillies, however, were very well in the thick of things. In addition to their standing in the division, they were also second in the NL Wildcard race, 2.5 games back of the San Diego Padres.
At 1:07 P.M. EST, at Dolphin Stadium, Florida Marlins starter Scott Olsen delivered the first offering of the day, a called strike, to Phillies leadoff man, shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Rollins was slashing .300/.350/.536 through his first 135 appearances of the season, with 25 homers and 79 RBI. In the first two games of the series, he had gone seven-for-nine, with a double, a homer, and four RBI. In fact, Rollins had multiple hits in each of the seven contests leading up to this one.
In the third inning, Ryan Howard hit an RBI-single, Aaron Rowand hit an RBI-double, and Jayson Werth followed with a two-run double to give the Phils a 4-0 lead. In the fourth, Adam Eaton hit a leadoff shot to add to Philadelphia’s lead.
The Florida Marlins cut into the Phillies lead in the bottom of thinning, on a solo-shot by Cabrera and a two-run shot by Ross. Dontrelle Willis hit a pinch hit double in the fifth inning, and later scored on an error by Howard.
"Pinch hitting is hard when you do it once a year. I was trying to help the team win. – Willis, as quoted by Craig Barnes, Sun-Sentinel"
With the score still 5-3 in Philadelphia’s favor, Ross smacked another homer to lead off the sixth. In the seventh, Ramirez led off with another homer, then Uggla connected for the Marlins fifth tater of the day, back-to-back.
With the Marlins leading 7-5, the Phillies fought back in their half of the ninth, opposite Florida reliever Kevin Gregg.
Gregg started the inning striking out Howard on six pitches, then allowed Rowand to single into right field. After a wild pitch allowed Rowand to take second, Gregg struck out Werth in another six-pitch at bat. That’s where things started to get dicey.
Gregg surrendered a two-out walk to future-Marlin Greg Hobbs. Carlos Ruiz followed with a single that scored Rowand and moved Dobbs to third. Gregg then walked Utley in another six-pitch at bat to load the bases.
Florida Marlins Plate Appearance of the Day
With the Florida Marlins clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth, a struggling Gregg on the mound and the bases loaded, three-time all-star Rollins came to bat for the fifth time in the game. With “only” a triple to his credit in the game, Rollins’ multihit-streak was at risk.
*note – game video and specific pitch data for the 2007 season is not available. A lot of the pitch-by-pitch description contained hereof is largely a product of my imagination.
First pitch: A ball high and outside, laid off by Rollins.
Second pitch: A pitch in the dirt. Florida Marlins catcher Matt Treanor barely kept the pitch in front of him, blocking it with his knees like a goaltender.
Third pitch: With Rollins taking all-the-way, Gregg delivers a strike on the outer part of the plate.
Fourth pitch: Ball three, well above the strike zone. Gregg is about to lose this guy.
Fifth pitch: Rollins again takes all the way, and Gregg puts it in the zone at the knees.
Sixth pitch: The Phillies had started the inning with a four percent chance at victory, per the Baseball Reference Win Expectancy model. On this pitch, they were up to 23 percent. The payoff pitch in the game’s final at bat was the most impactful pitch of the game.
Rollins had seen most of what Gregg had to offer by the time he decided to swing at one, and he really got a hold of it. Driven into the deepest part of deep right-center field, Florida Marlins centerfielder Alejandro De Aza, who was 0-for-4 in the game, settled under the ball for the game-winning catch.
"At the end, it wasn’t a physical. It was a mental thing. We are playing to stake a claim to next year. – Gregg, quoted by Craig Barnes, Sun-Sentinel"
Florida Marlins: The Rest of the Season
The Florida Marlins closed out the rest of the 2007 campaign with 10 wins and 14 losses, to settle at 72-90, 18 games back of the eventual division-winning Phillies. Philadelphia then lost in three straight games of the NLDS to the Colorado Rockies.
Gregg’s wild ride that day was good for his 28th save of the season. The 6’6″ right-hander pitched a 13-season major league career in total, going 30-46 with 177 saves, a 4.24 ERA, and 661 K’s in 720 1/3 innings. Aside from his time with the Marlins, he also pitched for the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago Cubs, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Baltimore Orioles, and the Cincinnati Reds before retiring in 2015.
More from Marlins History
- Miami Marlins One-Year Wonder 1B
- Miami Marlins players & the 2023 Hall of Fame
- Former Miami Marlins star is retiring
- Gary Sheffield or Mark Buehrle, will either Marlin make the Hall of Fame?
- Why don’t we see more dynasties? Part 3
Rollins, of course, won his first Gold Glove and his only Silver Slugger for his work in 2007. Oh, and he was also the NL MVP. He ended up playing the first 15 seasons of his 17 season career with the Phillies, slashing .264/.324/.418 with 231 homers and 936 RBI. He retired after a season each with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox.
Thanks for taking this short detour on our drive towards the 2019 regular season down memory lane. Let me know if this is the sort of thing you like in the comments below. Subscribe to our daily newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.