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ON DICEY NIGHT, MARLINS ROLL A 7

It was wild. It was ugly. It was cold. It was long.

It was a night of slo-pitch softball at the World Series: Florida 14, Cleveland 11.

After 25 runs, 26 hits, 17 walks and six errors covering 4 hours and 12 minutes, anyone want to argue about Arctic weather producing shoddy baseball?

The Marlins lead the series, two games to one, with Game Four tonight at 8 (Ch. 2; Radio 710, 1520). Indians manager Mike Hargrove insisted this will be an easy one to forget because it was such a poorly played game. We'll see.

"Tonight, both teams outuglied each other," Hargrove said of a contest played in 49-degree weather with wind-chills that dropped into the 20s.

The Marlins were the survivors in a ninth inning that began with the score tied at 7-7. The inning fell apart for Cleveland as it gift-wrapped seven Florida runs with three errors. That tied a Series record that hadn't been equaled since the Dodgers triple-goofed in a game 31 years ago.

The inning started innocently as Bobby Bonilla drew a walk from Eric Plunk. Bonilla, whose gimpy hamstring contributed to two errors that helped Cleveland build a 7-3 lead through five innings, then made the play of the night.

Darren Daulton singled to right and Bonilla hesitated around second before taking off for third. Marquis Grissom's throw hit Bonilla in the shoulder and bounced into the camera bay next to the Cleveland dugout. That allowed Bonilla to score the tie-breaking run.

"Bobby is not exceptionally fast, but he's always been a pretty instinctive base runner," said Marlins manager Jim Leyland. "It was almost like he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to go because of the leg and then it was like he had a flash, 'Hey this is the World Series,' and he went."

Things then fell apart for Cleveland. Jim Thome flubbed a pickoff throw. Tony Fernandez double-dribbled a liner to second. Jose Mesa gave up two-run singles to Gary Sheffield -- who had five RBIs -- and Bonilla. It was 14-7 and lights out for the Indians.

Sheffield was the Marlins' big gun. Openly frustrated by not getting many pitches to hit, he teed off for a solo homer in the first and a booming double in the seventh that forged the 7-7 tie.

"I went up there thinking they were going to pitch to me today and try to surprise me," Sheffield said. "I just came in ready and tried to capitalize on them when they came in."

In spite of the weather, the action was hot all night. For five innings, the Indians were in control. They had a 7-3 lead and the Marlins had committed three errors to produce three unearned runs. Two of the miscues were by the hobbling Bonilla.

"Obviously, you've got to put the fire out eventually and stop walking guys and kicking the ball around," Daulton said. "But that's baseball."

Momentum began to shift in the sixth when 38-year-old designated hitter Jim Eisenreich blasted a two-out, two-run homer to right to pull the Marlins within 7-5.

"That gave us hope again," Sheffield said.

Florida pulled even with a two-run seventh off the Cleveland bullpen. Brian Anderson yielded a leadoff single to Craig Counsell and got Devon White on a ground out before being relieved by Mike Jackson.

Jackson promptly allowed Edgar Renteria's RBI single to cut the lead to 7-6. Sheffield then blasted his double that short-hopped the center-field wall. That run was charged to Jackson, who had made 10 previous scoreless appearances during this postseason.

"Any time we've had a four-run lead throughout the season it's been fairly safe," Hargrove said with a shrug.

It wasn't on this night. Six Cleveland relievers combined to give up nine runs on 10 hits and four walks over the final three innings. Even Mesa was a victim. He finally got the Marlins out, but Florida closer Rob Nen gave up four runs in the ninth. The last two came on Bip Roberts' double.

The 25 runs were the second-most in series history, topped only by the 29 in Toronto's 15-14 win at Philadelphia in 1993.

It was a game that both starting pitchers undoubtedly would like to forget. Cleveland's Charles Nagy lasted six innings, but walked four and was torched for three home runs. Florida's Al Leiter was even worse -- allowing seven runs and walking six in just 4 2/3 innings. Leiter threw 114 pitches in that span, and only 64 went for strikes. He walked four batters in the Cleveland fourth to tie a Series record set by six others. Leiter also bobbled Roberts' leadoff chopper in the first for an error that led to two unearned Indians runs.

Cleveland KO'd Leiter in the fifth as Thome smoked a two-run homer deep into the right-field seats to put the Tribe up, 7-3.

Then came the Cleveland collapse.

In an interview room sometime after 1 this morning, Daulton was asked if the Marlins would accept an ugly win.

It was a pointless question. After all, this is the World Series. Daulton, a victim of that 15-14 game four years ago, finally had some of revenge.

"Why wouldn't you?" he said. "After Bip Roberts hit that ball in the gap, I just said, 'Man this reminds me of that game in '93.' Fourteen wasn't a good number then, but it was tonight."

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