Of all the games the Rockies have played on the Fourth of July, one stands out: the contest in 2008 against the Florida Marlins. The Rockies, defending National League champs and all, were struggling at that point, entering the game with a 35-51 record. Meanwhile, the Marlins entered at a middling 43-42.
Marlins starting pitcher Scott Olsen entered the game with a 4-4 record and a 3.47 ERA in 17 starts in 2008, and the Rockies countered with 2006 first-round pick Greg Reynolds, who had posted a 5.75 ERA to go with a 2-6 record in the first 10 starts of his big-league career.
The game got off to an inauspicious start as Hanley Ramirez led off with a home run against Reynolds, giving Florida a 1-0 lead. The homer seemed to rattle Reynolds, who followed it up by walking Jeremy Hermida and hitting Jorge Cantu with a pitch. After recording an out, Hermida scored on Mike Jacobs' double and Cantu and Jacobs scored on a three-run home run by Matt Treanor that gave the Marlins a 5-0 lead after a half inning.
Olsen's start was also shaky, as Ryan Spilborghs and Clint Barmes led off the game for the Rockies with back-to-back doubles. However, unlike Reynolds, Olsen was able to limit the damage in the first, retiring Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Jeff Baker in order to keep the Marlins' lead at 5-1 after an inning of play.
The second would be Reynolds' swan song for the night, as he gave up singles to Ramirez and Cantu, both of whom scored on Josh Willingham's double. After walking Jacobs, Reynolds was replaced by Cedrick Bowers. Reynolds allowed seven runs (all earned) on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings, walking two and striking out no one. He left with the Rockies trailing 7-1. Bowers was able to get out of the inning without further damage, getting Cody Ross to ground out and Alfredo Amezaga to pop up.
The Rockies got the two runs back in the bottom of the second. With two outs, Troy Tulowitzki doubled and Bowers walked. (I don't know what's more inexplicable there, Tulo batting eighth or the relief pitcher walking with two outs.) With two on and two out, Spilborghs and Barmes both had RBI singles, cutting the Rockies defecit to 7-3 after two innings.
Bowers worked a 1-2-3 top of the third, allowing the Rockies to crawl closer in the bottom half of the inning. Atkins doubled, advanced to third on an error and scored on Baker's groundout. Through three innings, the Marlins held a 7-4 lead.
Bowers did not fare as well in the fourth as he did in the previous two innings. Cantu singled, Willingham walked and Jacobs singled to load the bases with nobody out. Ross then cleared the bases with a three-run double and scored on Amezaga's one-out single that gave Florida an 11-4 lead and chased Bowers from the game. Bowers lasted two innings, allowing five runs on five hits with two walks and a strikeout. He was replaced by Luis Vizcaino, who gave up an RBI double to Ramirez and a run-scoring single to Hermida before getting out of the inning trailing 13-4.
The Rockies got a run back in the bottom of the fourth as Spilborghs got the third part of the cycle with a solo home run off of Olsen and, despite allowing a pair of singles, Vizcaino got through the top of the fifth without allowing a run. Halfway through the game, the Marlins held a 13-5 lead.
Holliday led off the bottom of the fifth with a home run against Olsen, who proceeded to give up a single to Atkins and a double to Baker before Chris Iannetta cleared the bases with a three-run homer, cutting the Rockies' deficit to 13-9. Olsen then retired Brad Hawpe, Tulowitzki and pinch-hitter Aaron Cook in order to preserve his team's four-run lead.
Vizcaino, who allowed a run on four hits in 1 2/3 innings, was replaced in the sixth by Jason Grilli, who retired Olsen, Ramirez and Hermida in order, keeping the Marlins' lead at 13-9.
Despite batting in the top of the sixth, Olsen did not return to the mound for the bottom of the inning. He allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits in five innings of work with a walk and three strikeouts. He was replaced by Taylor Tankersley, who was greeted by Spilborghs' second home run of the ball game. Tankersley then allowed a single to Barmes and struck out Holliday before allowing another long ball, this one a two-run shot from Atkins, and was pulled from the game afterward. Joe Nelson relieved Tankersley and walked a pair before retiring the side with his team holding a 13-12 lead through six innings of play.
Grilli returned to the mound for the top of the seventh and allowed doubles to Cantu and Willingham that put runners on second and third with nobody out. Jacobs was intentionally walked before Ross lined a two-run single to left, extending Florida's lead to 15-12 and causing Clint Hurdle to replace Grilli with Manuel Corpas and Tulowitzki with Omar Quintanilla in a double switch. After a bunt and a fielder's choice at home, there were runners on second and third with two outs for pinch hitter Luis Gonzalez, who hit a two-run single, giving the Marlins a 17-12 lead at the seventh-inning stretch.
Justin Miller, the fourth Marlins pitcher of the game, entered in the bottom of the seventh and promptly gave up a double to Quintanilla and walked Spilborghs before being pulled in favor of Logan Kensing without recording an out. Kensing then walked Barmes to load the bases before coughing up Holliday's second home run of the night, a grand slam that cut the Marlins' lead to 17-16. Kensing then allowed a single to Atkins and struck out Baker and Iannetta before giving way to lefty Renyel Pinto, who retired Hawpe to end the inning.
Corpas loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but got Treanor to pop out to end the threat without a run scoring. Pinto and Doug Waechter combined to work a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, sending the Marlins to the ninth with a 17-16 lead.
Taylor Buchholz took the mound for the Rockies in the ninth and successfully preserved their one-run deficit with a two-out walk to Ramirez the only blemish on his record.
The Marlins called on Kevin Gregg, their eighth pitcher of the night, to close the game. He started the inning by allowing a single through the middle to Barmes followed by a bloop single from Holliday. With two on and none out, Atkins singled to left, scoring Barmes and tying the game at 17. Baker then reached on a fielder's choice, but no out was recorded, loading the bases for Iannetta. The Rockies catcher hit a ground ball single to left, scoring Holliday and giving the Rockies an improbable 18-17 win.
The box score of the game is truly a sight to behold. The teams combined for 35 runs on 43 hits, 11 walks and a pair of errors and hit batsmen. Eight of the 43 hits were home runs. There were 14 pitchers used in the game, eight for the Marlins and six for the Rockies, with just one of them (Olsen) lasting more than two innings. The hurlers combined to throw 325 pitches in the game. It was a truly memorable game in an otherwise forgettable season.