In each of his four full seasons as a member of the Florida Marlins, Preston Wilson hit at least 23 home runs. But there were other elements to his offensive game.
On this day 20 years ago, Wilson played the role of hero on a hit that didn’t leave the infield. His walk-off single broke a scoreless tie and lifted the Marlins to a 1-0 victory over the New York Mets.
The Marlins were trying to salvage a split in the final game of a four-game set on June 3, 2001 at Pro Player Stadium. Starting pitchers Kevin Appier, for the Mets, and Florida’s A.J. Burnett combined to allow just six hits in 15 2⁄3 combined innings as the contest went to the bottom of the ninth scoreless.
Burnett struck out five and walked just one in 8 2⁄3 shutout innings, but left with two on. Florida reliever Antonio Alfonseca stranded both runners by getting Todd Zeile, a former Marlin, to bounce out to keep the contest scoreless.
Mets’ reliever Turk Wendell had worked a perfect eighth and struck out Dave Berg to start the ninth, but a Luis Castillo double put the winning run in scoring position with one out. After Eric Owens drew a 10-pitch walk, closer John Franco came in to relieve Wendell.
Franco got Cliff Floyd to hit into a fielder’s choice, which set the stage for Wilson to be the hero.
Wilson had been 0-for-2 on the day with a walk, but managed to get ahead in the count, 2-1. On the fourth pitch he saw from Franco, Wilson was able to line one back off the lefty. The ball bounced off Franco to the left side of the infield, but Wilson was able to leg it out for the winning single.
The teams combined for just eight hits—four each on the afternoon—but the two in the ninth made the difference for the Marlins. Although he was unable to pick up the win, the stellar effort served as Burnett’s third scoreless outing in five starts. It ended on an infield single on this day two decades ago.