Liván Hernández reflects on Edgar Rentería’s World Series heroics

Every day during the World Series La Vida Baseball will showcase a great Latino moment in World Series history. Today’s piece is about what it feels like to watch a teammate be the hero.

“Yeah, yeah,” Hernández replied.

He hadn’t thrown in two days. So the Cuban pitcher who had won the National League Championship Series MVP headed over to the Marlins bullpen to warm up.

He bounced his first pitch.

“Oh my God, I’m in trouble,” Hernández thought.

He needn’t have worried. Edgar Rentería would be there to bail him out.

Break from the Routine

October nights in south Florida can still get hot and sticky. That usually made it a little easier for pitchers to warm up, especially if they are used to it, like Hernández—a Cuba native.

The afternoon temperature at Pro Player Stadium reached 85 degrees before settling at 79 as the Marlins and the Cleveland Indians took the field that evening.

There is always a buzz for a World Series Game 7. The pregame atmosphere is full of energy. Like most starting pitchers, Hernández had a game-day ritual. He’d arrive at the ballpark, blast some Latino music in the clubhouse to set the mood, change into his uniform then review the pitch plan while studying the opposing lineup.

He had gone through the routine twice already that World Series, starting Game 1 in Florida and Game 5 in Cleveland—both Marlins wins.

He hadn’t done any of that before Game 7; he wasn’t starting.

But Hernández would go on to throw in front of 67,204 people, some of them fans, some of them not. Leyland told him he was going to need every pitcher he had if he was going to win the game and clinch the World Series title.

Or so it seemed.

Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the third inning on Tony Fernández’s run-scoring single off Marlins starter Al Leiter.

The Marlins cut the lead in the seventh on a Bobby Bonilla home run then sent the game into extra innings on a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth. The clock had already struck midnight as the Marlins and the Indians worked their way through the 11th frame tied 2-2.

Leyland had told Hernández to warm up if the game went to a 12th inning.

Edgar Rentería made sure it wouldn’t.

Through Livan’s Eyes

“I thought I would throw a curve ball, and the curve is not working,” Hernández recalled about his effort trying to warm up.

He started throwing a bunch of fast pitches. Nothing was working. A strong cup of Cuban coffee didn’t seem to do the trick either.

“I tried to do everything right because maybe I go into the game and pitch three or four innings,” the Cuban right-hander said.

The Marlins proceeded to load the bases with one out. Frustrated, Hernández turned to watch the game.

Devon White grounded a ball to second and Cleveland got the runner out at home on a force play for a second out.

Up to the plate stepped Edgar Rentería, the Marlins starting shortstop, with Charles Nagy on the mound.

In just his second full season as a major leaguer, Rentería had hit .277 during the regular season. In the World Series, he had eight hits in 30 at-bats. The youngster from Barranquilla, Colombia, had delivered in big moments throughout the season with five game-winning hits.

Nagy hurls the ball toward Rentería at the plate. Rentería swings.

Hernández wouldn’t need that curve ball after all.

“Let me tell you something right now,” said Hernández. “I don’t believe in a lot of stuff, but I got to believe that ball has got an angel flying it because it’s so soft that the [pitcher] hit it [with] the glove. He don’t catch it, but it hit him soft, and the ball continues to center field.”

Final score: 3-2, Marlins.

Hernández is jumping up and down, running from the bullpen onto the field where he joins his teammates who are piling on Rentería in the infield.

“The whole thing is history. We win the World Series. I started to jump. I’m running [all] over and jump on top of Rentería.”

Though he never made it out of the bullpen for Game 7, Hernandez receives the MVP Award that year with a few words that summed up both the series and Rentería’s walk-off.

“I love you, Miami.”

Keep reading throughout the World Series to see how our favorite players performed on the game’s biggest stage.

Oct. 22: Sergio Romo
Oct. 23: Luis Gonzalez
Oct. 24: Ozzie Guillén
Oct. 25: Edgar Rentería
Oct. 26: Roberto Clemente
Oct. 27: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martínez

Featured Image: Timothy A. Clary / AFP