Joe Dillon probably isn’t a name that fans of the Florida/Miami Marlins will remember fondly (if at all). On this day 15 years ago, however, fans from South Florida were happy to learn it.
A journeyman in the minor leagues, Dillon appeared in just 137 games over four years at the big-league level. He hit just three home runs and only one as a member of the Marlins. That one served as the game-winner on May 21, 2005.
After holding off the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the first game of the “Citrus Series” the night prior, the Florida Marlins aimed to clinch the series at Dolphins Stadium.
Tampa Bay raced to a 3-0 lead early against Marlins’ starter A.J. Burnett. The Devil Rays pushed across two runs in the first inning on an RBI single by Aubrey Huff and an RBI groundout by future Marlin Jorge Cantú. Catcher Toby Hall led off the second inning with a solo home run off Burnett.
The 3-0 lead would hold up until the bottom of the sixth when the Marlins used two long balls to draw even against Devil Rays’ starter Mark Hendrickson. Juan Encarnación broke up the shutout with a two-run shot with one out in the inning. Two batters later, Damion Easley’s solo homer to left tied the game.
Burnett settled in after the Hall home run and did not allow another hit. Burnett allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out six in six innings for Florida.
With the contest knotted at 3-3, Dillon was called on to pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth against right-hander Jesús Colomé. The 29-year-old rookie had gone 1-for-4 with his a single in his Major League debut three days earlier in a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but had not gotten a chance to swing the bat since.
With two outs and the bases empty, Colomé was able to get ahead in the count, 1-2. Looking for the strikeout, Colomé threw inside to Dillon, but got too much of the plate. Dillon was able to pull the pitch over the left-field wall for the go-ahead home run. The shot that put Florida ahead for good in the 4-3 victory.
Todd Jones worked a scoreless ninth to earn the save for Florida. It was Matt Perisho, however, who earned the win for the Marlins. Perisho retired both batters he faced in the eighth inning on just five total pitches. At the plate, three of Florida’s eight hits left the yard. Two others belonged to Álex González.
Hall finished 3-for-3 for Tampa Bay in the loss. Julio Lugo had two hits for the Devil Rays and scored the game’s second run. Colome took the loss on the mound.
As for the night’s hero, Dillon would tally just four more hits as a member of the Marlins. But in a season of lofty expectations for the team, his first career home run decided a close contest and at the time, kept the Fish in first place. It came on this day 15 years ago.