Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans are still desperately waiting for baseball to resume. On Opening Day for the Florida Marlins on this day 15 years ago, fans went home happy as the Fish teed off on a future Hall of Fame pitcher.
After recording 144 saves over three seasons as the Atlanta Braves’ closer, John Smoltz was moved back to the rotation for the 2005 season. Smoltz would finish his career as an eight-time All-Star and a Cy Young winner, but to the Marlins on April 5, 2005, he was meat.
The 2005 opener tied the shortest start of Smoltz’s career as he recorded just five outs. He would yield seven runs, six earned, on six hits in a 9-0 victory for the Marlins at Dolphins Stadium.
Smoltz was an out away from escaping the first inning unscathed after striking out Carlos Delgado. But Mike Lowell saw to it that the Marlins’ first rally of the season was a fruitful one as he chased home Luis Castillo with an RBI single. After catcher Paul Lo Duca singled to load the bases, Juan Encarnación delivered the big blow. On the second pitch he saw from Smoltz, Encarnación blasted the ball over the left-center field wall for a grand slam to give Florida a 5-0 lead.
In the second inning, the Marlins made more noise. Following a two-out single by Miguel Cabrera and a passed ball that put a pair of runners in scoring position, the newly-signed Delgado’s first hit as a Marlin ended Smoltz’s afternoon. The two-run single pushed the Florida lead to seven and sent the former Cy Young winner to the showers.
While Smoltz struggled, Marlins’ starting pitcher Josh Beckett was stellar. Beckett yielded just two hits and three walks in six shutout innings. Beckett set down six Braves on strikes.
The Marlins would add to their lead in the sixth inning when Delgado and Lowell recorded back-to-back RBI singles. Delgado finished 4-for-5 with three RBIs in his Florida debut. Lowell plated two runs while Castillo scored three times in the victory.
The Braves would bounce back to win the next two games and take the series. As for Smoltz, he would go on to finish 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA and make the All-Star game for a seventh time in 2005.
His season debut, however, left much to be desired. That came courtesy of the Florida Marlins and it happened on this day 15 years ago.