Robbins keeps Miracle in the game

Fort Myers staves off elimination in the Finals with a 5-3 victory

(Jerry Hale/

By Lisa Winston / | September 8, 2008 6:54 PM

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Some say it would take a miracle for a team to come back from an 0-2 deficit on the road in a best-of-5 series.

If that is true, then the right team is trying to achieve the feat.

The Fort Myers Miracle staved off elimination in the Class Advanced A Florida State League Championship Series by topping the host Daytona Cubs, 5-3, on Monday night to stay alive in their quest for the first title in the franchise's 17-year existence.

Despite being outhit, 12-8, the Miracle capitalized when they had to, with the crushing blow coming on first baseman Whit Robbins' two-run homer in the fourth inning off Cubs starter James Russell.

"We were up, 3-1, and we had a runner on second base and no one out," said the Atlanta native, the Twins' fourth-round pick in 2006 out of Georgia Tech. "So I was just looking to move him over and he threw me one right over the plate."

The Miracle had swept two games from the second-half champion Dunedin Blue Jays to earn the West Division title, but lost their two home games to red-hot Daytona. The Cubs had beaten Palm Beach in the East on Friday to roll into the Finals.

The two teams took the four-hour drive across the state Friday night in different states of mind, one ebullient about needing one win at home and the other feeling they had nothing to lose.

"Down 0-2, we felt like all the pressure was on them," said Robbins, who hit .268 with six homers and 42 RBIs during the regular season for Fort Myers. "So we just came out to play today and were lucky enough to come out with the win."

If the Miracle do indeed pull off the remarkable comeback, Daytona may look back at lost chance after lost chance. The team outhit Fort Myers, 12-8, but stranded 13 runners on base, not including two who were thrown out at home.

Fort Myers, meanwhile, left just three runners on base. The Miracle gave early notice that they weren't about to roll over and play dead for the Cubs as they jumped on Russell for a 2-0 lead in the first.

Leadoff hitter Juan Portes blooped a double into right field, but there was nothing cheap about Edward Ovalle's ensuing two-run homer. When No. 3 hitter Rene Tosoni followed with a hard-hit single to center it looked like it might be a long inning for Russell, but he quickly ended the rally with a double play and a grounder.

The Cubs cut the Miracle's lead in half when Tony Thomas singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch by Fort Myers starter Deolis Guerra and scored on Jim Adduci's double to right field.

But Russell, who retired eight in order after the first, seemed to lose steam in the fourth. He quickly surrendered a single to Tosoni, an RBI double to Ramos and the two-run homer to right by Robbins. That gave Fort Myers a commanding 5-1 lead and seemed to take the wind out of the home crowd's sails.

In the fifth, Darwin Barney led off for the Cubs with a single and Thomas, who has been the hottest hitter in the postseason for Daytona with a .480 average in six games, hit his first homer of the playoffs -- a two-run shot to left to make it 5-3.

The Cubs left runners aboard in every inning except the first and fourth, including leaving the bases loaded in the eighth, and had runners thrown out trying to score in the second and sixth.

Guerra, the 19-year-old phenom acquired from the New York Mets in the Johan Santana deal, allowed three runs in 4 1/3 innings and left with the lead, but didn't last the required five innings to qualify for the win. The victory went to reliever Carlos Gutierrez, Saturday night's losing pitcher, who struggled with control Monday but tossed a scoreless inning.

Fort Myers' ace closer Anthony Slama got the save in his first appearance of the Finals, striking out four in 1 1/3 innings. Slama collected 25 saves and posted a 1.01 ERA for the Miracle in the regular season.

Russell, the son of former big league closer Jeff Russell, took the loss for Daytona, allowing five runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of work.

The series resumes Tuesday night for Game 4 at Daytona. Alex Burnett, who won Game 2 of the Western Division series for the Miracle, goes for Fort Myers while Marcos Mateo takes the hill for the host Cubs.

Lisa Winston is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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