Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Hee Seop Choi drove in three runs and Josh Beckett struck out nine in seven solid innings, as the Florida Marlins started defense of their World Series crown by beating the Montreal Expos 4-3 in the season-opener at Pro Player Stadium.
Choi, making his Marlins debut after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the off-season, went 1-for-3 with a home run in his first at-bat. Juan Pierre added two hits for the Marlins, who snapped a three-game losing streak on Opening Day.
Mike Redmond added an RBI in the triumph, knocking in the go-ahead run during a two-run eighth.
Jose Vidro had a huge day for Montreal, going 3-for-5 with a home run and two runs batted in.
Beckett, who earned World Series MVP honors last October, didn't figure in the decision. He gave up just one run on four hits with three walks and left the game with a 2-1 lead.
Montreal evened the game in the eighth on an RBI single by Orlando Cabrera off Chad Fox, who came in to relive Beckett to start the frame.
After striking out Vidro, Fox gave up a double to Carl Everett. Everett had a chance to stretch the hit into a triple after Miguel Cabrera misplayed the ball in the outfield, but he held up at second. One batter later, Everett touched home on a single by Cabrera.
Fox remained in trouble, walking Brad Wilkerson and issuing a two-out free pass to Terrmel Sledge to load the bases. Matt Perisho (1-0) came in and got Brian Schneider to ground out to second, ending the inning.
Florida went ahead for good with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a single off loser Luis Ayala (0-1) and raced to third on Jeff Conine's one-out base hit. Choi then knocked in his third run of the game with a grounder for a 3-2 lead, and Redmond's single chased home Conine for a big insurance run.
"You've got to do the small things. We don't sit back and wait for the three- run homer," Beckett said. "We try to get runs when we can get them."
Armando Benitez, Florida's new closer, made things interesting in the ninth before nailing down the save. The former Met gave up a two-out solo home run to Vidro, then got Orlando Cabrera to fly out to end the game.
Montreal starter Livan Hernandez had a strong outing, surrendering just two runs in six innings of work. Hernandez gave up five hits while striking out eight for the Expos, who had a three-game winning streak on Opening Day stopped and fell to 18-18 in openers.
In the first ever matchup between two World Series MVPs on Opening Day, Beckett got off to a fast start, striking out two of the first three batters he faced to set the tone.
The Marlins grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second. Mike Lowell started the frame with a double off the left field wall and scored one-out later on Choi's homer.
"That kind of lifted some the pressure off my shoulders," Beckett said about Choi's homer. "He gave me an early lead. I was excited to get back out there and pitch."
Florida threatened in the third inning with bases loaded and two outs, but Conine struck out for the second time to end the inning.
Beckett worked himself out of a fourth-inning jam. After consecutive singles by Peter Bergeron and Vidro to start the inning, Beckett struck out Everett and got Orlando Cabrera to fly out to shallow left. He then fanned Wilkerson for the third out.
Montreal reached the scoreboard on an RBI double by Vidro in the sixth inning. Bergeron drew a one-out walk and crossed the plate on Vidro's double to right. After Beckett walked Everett, he struck out Orlando Cabrera swinging and got Wilkerson looking to end the Expos' rally.
In the seventh inning, the Expos threatened once again. Sledge drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a two-out Ron Calloway single to left. However, Beckett struck out Bergeron swinging for the third out to preserve the lead.