25-year Marliniversary: Zeile’s walk-off caps improbable comeback as Marlins rally past Mets

A Marlins memory from this day in 1998.

The 1998 Florida Marlins weren’t very good. In fact, they finished with the worst record in franchise history and the worst record in baseball. Even so, Jim Leyland’s final Florida team didn’t quit.

The New York Mets found that out firsthand on this day 25 years ago. The Marlins erased a four-run deficit in the eighth inning to top the Mets in walk-off fashion, 5-4.

The Marlins had opened the three-game set with a walk-off win as the teams arrived at Pro Player Stadium for the rubber game on June 14, 1998. After a throwing error allowed Brian McRae to push the New York lead to 4-0 in the top of the eighth, the Florida bats finally came to life in the bottom of the inning.

Facing Mel Rojas, Edgar Rentería broke up the shutout with an RBI double. Two batters later, Zeile added an RBI double of his own to cut the deficit to 4-2.

The Mets turned to Brian Bohanon to face Cliff Floyd with a runner on. Despite nearly being hit twice, Floyd was able to work a seven-pitch at-bat before lifting a game-tying two-run home run into the first row in right field.

The Marlins had new life and weren’t going to lose it. After Matt Mantei struck out Alberto Castillo to strand two in the top of the ninth, Florida put together a two-out rally in the bottom half.

Back-to-back infield singles from Renteria and Todd Dunwoody, who had the walk-off hit two nights prior, set the stage for Todd Zeile to be the hero. Less than a week earlier against the Toronto Blue Jays, Zeile had come through with a walk-off hit in the 17th inning. Against New York’s John Hudek, Zeile would deliver again.

On a 0-1 pitch, Zeile rolled a hard-hit single up the middle to score Renteria and cap the comeback. Zeile, John Cangelosi, Floyd and Derrek Lee each had two hits for Florida in the win while Renteria had three.

Luis Lopez and Edgardo Alfonzo each finished with three hits for the Mets. Lopez scored twice. Alfonzo finished with three RBIs.

The 1998 season would end with the Marlins totaling just 54 victories with eight coming on walk-offs. Zeile was at the plate for three of those, including against the Mets on this day a quarter-century ago. 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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