Preston Wilson was never the biggest of guys, but he still generated an impressive amount of power at the plate. Wilson hit at least 23 home runs in each of his four full seasons as a member of the Florida Marlins and 189 for his big-league career. Only one of those was a walk-off, and it came on this day 20 years ago.
In the rubber game of a three-game series at Pro Player Stadium on Sept. 5, 2001 against the Chicago Cubs, Wilson played the role of hero. His three-run walk-off blast with two outs was the difference as the Marlins rallied for a 7-6 victory.
The Marlins were on the short end of a 6-4 score as the Cubs turned to closer Tom Gordon to start the bottom of the ninth. Gordon got ahead in the count to each of the five hitters he faced, but was unable to seal the deal.
After John Mabry’s pinch-hit single started the inning, Luis Castillo grounded into a fielder’s choice. Gordon plunked Florida first baseman Derrek Lee to put the tying run on base, but bounced back to get the dangerous Cliff Floyd to fly out.
With two outs, Wilson came to the plate. Wilson was never known as a player who routinely put the ball in play, but after falling behind in the count 1-2, he battled. Wilson fouled a pair of 1-2 pitches off before getting a fastball on the outer part of the plate that he could handle.
Wilson lined one the opposite way, clearing the teal wall in right field for the walk-off blast. The Marlins had won the game and the series.
Entering the bottom of the eighth, the Marlins had scored just one run on an RBI double from Kevin Millar in the sixth and were down 5-1. Florida scored three runs in the eighth to draw to within one. After an error on a Wilson groundball allowed Floyd to score, Millar came through with a two-run home run to make it 5-4.
The Cubs added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on an RBI double by Eric Young Sr. off Florida lefty Armando Almanza. Chicago got the scoring started with four runs in the second, thanks to a two-run single from Ricky Gutierrez and a two-run home run by Ron Coomer. Gutierrez added an RBI sacrifice fly in the eighth.
The winning home run would serve as Wilson’s only career walk-off blast, but it was his second walk-off hit of the season. It came on this day two decades ago.