As most baseball fans in South Florida are aware, the 1997 Major League Baseball season ended with Edgar Rentería driving home the winning in the 11th inning after the Florida Marlins rallied to tie the game in the ninth inning.
That, of course, is a reference to Game 7 of the World Series as the Marlins topped the Cleveland Indians to win their first of two world championships.
But that was nothing new for Rentería—he already showed the tenacity for delivering in critical situations when that season was less than a week old. In an unexpected case of foreshadowing, the Marlins rallied from a one-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Cincinnati Reds in 11 innings on this day 25 years ago, 4-3. In this case however, it was also Rentería who tied the game.
The Florida Marlins were on the short end of a 3-2 score as the Reds turned to closer Jeff Shaw in the bottom of the ninth at Pro Player Stadium on April 5, 1997.
On the first pitch of the inning, Rentería hit one into the right-center field gap. It looked as though it would be an easy play for Cincinnati’s speedy outfield, but Deion Sanders and Reggie Sanders collided and the ball rolled all the way to the wall. Renteria made his way around the bases for an easy inside-the-park home run.
Shaw would retire the next three batters, but the contest went on. Dennis Cook worked a perfect 10th and Robb Nen worked a scoreless 11th out of the Florida bullpen. To start the bottom of the 11th, the Marlins were at the top of the order.
0-for-5 for the night, second baseman Luis Castillo worked a four-pitch walk against Kevin Jarvis. Castillo promptly stole second base. Facing Rentería, Jarvis fell behind 2-0.
The first strike he threw in the inning was lined by Renteria into the right-centerfield gap. Castillo easily scored to complete the comeback.
The contest went back and forth throughout the night. Cincinnati drew first blood on a sacrifice fly from Brook Fordyce in the second inning. In the bottom of the inning, it was the Marlins catcher who gave the home team its first lead as Gregg Zaun lined a two-run single.
The Reds regained the lead in the top of the seventh. After Fordyce doubled home the tying run, Eduardo Pérez drove him home with a single.
Deion Sanders had two of the six hits for Cincinnati. Renteria and Zaun combined for five of the 10 Florida hits and all four RBIs for the Marlins.
Rentería’s single walk-off began a four-game winning streak for the Marlins, who started 8-1 en route to winning the World Series. That single came on this day a quarter-century ago.