Ninth-inning comebacks were a theme for the Florida Marlins in 1997. The most notable came in Game 7 of the World Series, but there were plenty of others throughout.
For seven innings, Florida had no answer for Colorado starting pitcher Roger Bailey on May 30, 1997. The Marlins were on the short end of a 3-0 score and had managed just four hits as they came to bat in the bottom of the eighth.
Four pitches in and the tying run had come to the plate. Pinch hitter John Cangelosi and Luis Castillo came up with back-to-back singles. On Castillo’s single to center, a misplay by Rockies outfielder Quinton McCracken allowed Cangelosi to score Florida’s first run and Castillo to advance to third.
A groundout by Edgar Renteria cut the deficit to 3-2. Bailey’s night ended one pitch later when he hit Devon White.
Curtis Leskanic entered the contest out of the Colorado bullpen and immediately walked Gary Sheffield. He settled in to get Moises Alou to hit into a fielder’s choice and Bonilla to ground out.
After Rob Stanifer pitched a scoreless ninth for the Marlins, Steve Reed came in to try to finish it out in the bottom half of the inning. Reed fell behind 2-1 to Conine, who ultimately made him pay.
Conine was able to turn on an inside pitch and hammer it over the “teal tower” in left-centerfield for the game-tying home run to start the inning. Reed was able to bounce back and get the game to extra innings.
With the contest tied 3-3, both teams put runners in scoring position in the 10th, but neither could score. For the Marlins, that was again true in the bottom of the 11th.
Jay Powell and Mark Hutton worked perfect innings for Florida in the 11th and 12th, respectively. In the bottom of the 12th, the Marlins were finally able to end the contest.
Against reliever Jerry Dipoto, White doubled to start the Florida 12th. Sheffield was walked before Alou grounded into a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners with one out.
Up came Bonilla.
On the first pitch from Dipoto, Bonilla singled to right field for the walk-off hit, scoring White. Prior to the winning hit, Florida had not led for the entire evening.
On the other hand, Colorado led early. Andres Galarraga led off the second with a solo homer off Florida starter Pat Rapp. Neither team scored again until the sixth when the Rockies pushed across two on an RBI single from Dante Bichette and an RBI groundout from Vinny Castilla.
Rapp lasted eight innings but did not factor in the decision. Hutton got the win while Dipoto took the loss. Castillo, White and Bonilla all tallied two hits for the Marlins. Bichette had two of the five Colorado hits in the loss.
Including the postseason, the Marlins finished with 19 walk-off wins in 1997. That’s how they collected their final victory in May on this day a quarter-century ago.