In nearly three decades as a Major League Baseball franchise, the Florida/Miami Marlins have had many individuals accomplish many things. To this point, however, the Marlins have had only one pitcher reach 20 wins in a season.
That pitcher hit that mark on this day 15 years ago. Dontrelle Willis became the first hurler in club history to win 20 games in a season when he tossed a gem in a 12-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Willis was 19-8 when he took the mound for the middle game of a three-game series against the Nationals at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium on Sept. 7, 2005. Willis would mow down Washington not only with his arm, but with his bat as well.
On the mound, Willis worked six strong innings, allowing just a run on four hits. Willis threw 97 pitches and struck out three batters while walking as many. A solo home run by Rick Short to lead off the sixth inning was all the damage that would be done against Willis.
For the Marlins, the offense started early and never really stopped. On a day where Florida had 17 hits, Juan Encarnación got things started with an RBI double in the first inning. After a two-run home run by Carlos Delgado in the third inning extended the lead to three, Willis spent the next two innings helping himself.
Willis led off a two-run fourth inning with a double. He would come around to score on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera. Delgado then came through with a sacrifice fly.
Willis would start a two-out rally in the fifth inning with a single before scoring on an RBI single by Jeff Conine. After an RBI single from Damion Easley in the sixth extended the Florida lead to 7-0, Willis drove in his only run of the day with an RBI groundout.
When Willis’ day was done, he had scored more runs than he had allowed. The Marlins added two runs in the top of the seventh and two more in the ninth.
In addition to becoming the franchise’s only 20-game winner, Willis was one of six Marlins to tally two hits that evening. Conine, Cabrera, Encarnación, Paul Lo Duca and Easley all tallied a pair of hits.
Willis would go on to finish 22-10 during his All-Star campaign of 2005. The 22 wins remains a club record. Willis is still the lone Marlins pitcher to collect 20 wins in a season. No. 20 happened on this day a decade and a half ago.