What some may forget is that the 1997 MLB season was the first with interleague play. Each of the Marlins’ first two interleague wins came in walk-off fashion. The second of those came on this day 25 years ago and as a result of a fielding error. Florida beat the New York Yankees on a walk-off for the second time in three games, 6-5.
It was the rubber game of a three-game set and the second game of a doubleheader on June 15, 1997. The Marlins were on the short end of a 5-4 score as they came to bat against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth.
Rivera opened the inning by getting Luis Castillo to ground back to him for the out. The next two batters however, reached on 1-0 counts.
After Edgar Rentería’s bunt single put the tying run on base, the previously 0-for-4 Cliff Floyd blooped one that fell in shallow left field for a double to put the winning run in scoring position. Gary Sheffield was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Ahead in the count 0-2 to Moises Alou, Rivera made the pitch he needed to. Alou grounded one to second base for what looked to be the tailor-made game-ending double play.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, that was not to be.
Second baseman Pat Kelly was in perfect position to turn the twin killing, but he forgot one thing: the ball. Alou’s routine grounder rolled between his legs and into center field, allowing Rentería and Floyd to score easily for a 6-5 walk-off win.
Prior to the miscue, Kelly was nearly the hero for New York.
The Yankees trailed 4-3 entering the ninth inning, but pushed two runs across in the top of the frame. After Derek Jeter grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice to tie the game against Florida closer Robb Nen, Kelly drove him home with the go-ahead RBI triple.
The Yankees raced to an early 3-0 lead against rookie Livan Hernandez, who was making his season debut and just his second appearance at the big-league level. Bernie Williams and Paul O’Neill got the scoring started with RBI doubles in the first before Jeter added a sacrifice fly in the third.
New York wouldn’t score again until the ninth, but the Marlins chipped away. Jim Eisenreich got Florida on the board with an RBI double in the fourth before John Cangelosi homered off Yankees starter Dwight Gooden to lead off the fifth. The Marlins took their first lead on a two-run double by Gregg Zaun in the eighth.
Zaun finished with two hits while Renteria recorded a game-high three. O’Neill had two hits for the Yankees. Despite blowing the save, Nen picked up the win. Rivera took the loss.
Including the World Series, the Marlins won every interleague series they played in 1997. The first was clinched on error on this day a quarter-century ago.