CHICAGO — If not for Hurricane Ivan, manager Mike Redmond said the 2004 Marlins might have reached the playoffs to defend their World Series title. Instead, the storm and havoc it created with scheduling was the “final straw” in a season that fell short of expectations.
“After that,” Redmond said, “we didn’t play well.”
Redmond was reminiscing about that ’04 turning point on Friday at U.S. Cellular Field, which was where it all started to unravel for the Marlins. Because Ivan was threatening South Florida in mid-September, baseball officials agreed to move two games there with the Expos to a neutral site, the home park of the White Sox, just to be safe.
The Marlins, who were in wild-card contention, happened to be in Chicago playing the Cubs at the time the decision was made to face the Expos on Chicago’s South Side. The Marlins tried to give it a home feel by flying in their own organist and Billy the Marlin, but it wasn’t the same.
“It was probably one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played in,” said Juan Pierre, who was on that ’04 team with Redmond.
The crowds were small. White Sox fans cheered for the Marlins out of spite for the Cubs, who were also in the wild-card race. Cubs fans cheered for the Expos, hoping they would knock the Marlins out of the wild-card picture.
While the Marlins won both games, it was the beginning of the end.
They had to play a doubleheader the very next day in South Florida and won seven of their remaining 21 games, tumbling out of the playoff picture.
“I think it kind of wore us out,” Redmond said. “We were already kind of on fumes coming in. We had really fought hard to get back in it, and I think that was the last straw where we ran out of gas.”
As it turned out, Ivan went into the Gulf and never struck South Florida.
Kevin Slowey said he should be good to go for his upcoming start Monday. Slowey came out of Wednesday’s start with a lat injury. But after playing catch Friday, Slowey said he felt fine and didn’t expect any setbacks.
“I’m thankful we caught it when we did and were able to take are of it,” he said.
Sanabia on spitter
Alex Sanabia said he wasn’t aware he was violating any rules when he spat on the baseball Monday against the Phillies.
“I didn’t know it was illegal,” Sanabia said. “I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. That’s why I openly did it.”
Cameras caught Sanabia spitting on the baseball, then rubbing it with his hands, after giving up a homer to Domonic Brown.
“I guess I should have known that,” Sanabia said. “But I don’t read the rules, bro.”
Sanabia said the ball was slick, which is why he did it.
“I’m pretty sure if I wanted to cheat, I wouldn’t have rubbed it up the way I did,” he said. “I would have just left that big ol’ wad of spit on there and just threw it. But that wasn’t the case.”
• Nathan Eovaldi is scheduled to make his first rehab start Saturday for Single A Jupiter and will throw 60 to 70 pitches.
• Saturday: Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco (3-5, 3.96 ERA) at Chicago White Sox RHP Jake Peavy (5-2, 3.31), 7:15 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
• Sunday: Marlins RHP Sanabia (3-6, 4.56) at White Sox RHP Dylan Axelrod (2-3, 4.13), 2:10 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
• Scouting report: In 17 career interleague starts, Nolasco is 7-10 with a 5.35 ERA. He was 0-3 with a 8.80 ERA in three interleague starts last season.