For the Florida Marlins, the 1996 season was something of a breakthrough campaign.
The season didn’t end in postseason or a winning record, but the Marlins did win 80 games for the first time. The promising campaign allowed the Florida front office to add pieces to become a contender in 1997.
On this day 25 years ago, the Marlins accomplished a franchise first, collecting a walk-off win on back-to-back home runs in a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
Through eight innings at Joe Robbie Stadium on Sept. 21, 1996, the Marlins had managed just five hits and no runs. As the contest went to the bottom of the ninth, Florida was on the short end of a 1-0 score.
Hard-throwing lefty Billy Wagner had worked a scoreless eighth for Houston and was sent back out to try to save it in the ninth. Wagner would not even record an out.
After falling behind 2-1 in the count to Jeff Conine, Wagner gave the Florida outfielder a fastball that he could handle. Conine was able to go the other way and just beyond the glove of right fielder Derek Bell for the game-tying solo home run.
With the game tied 1-1, Wagner was able to get ahead of Devon White, but on a 1-2 pitch, his breaking ball hung and White didn’t miss it. White hammered the pitch over the “Teal Tower” in left for the walk-off home run and a 2-1 victory.
Prior to the bottom of the ninth, all the scoring came in the fourth on an RBI single by Bell. Florida’s Al Leiter and Houston’s Doug Drabek each had stellar starts on the mound, but neither factored in the decision.
Leiter allowed just a run on three hits and one walk in seven innings. Drabek yielded just four hits in seven shutout innings for the Astros. Wagner took the loss. Florida’s Felix Heredia retired all five batters he faced to earn his first career victory.
The back-to-back blasts gave Florida its final walk-off win of 1996 as the Marlins reeled off seven straight wins to get to 80 victories before dropping their final two games of the season to Houston. Conine and White made club history on this day a quarter-century ago.