During the 1996 season, Al Leiter and Kevin Brown became the first starting pitchers ever to represent the Florida Marlins in the All-Star Game. Brown’s first win as a member of the Marlins came on this day 25 years ago.
Although he had just a 2.51 ERA entering his fourth start as a member of the club, Brown had dropped his first three decisions with the team. A former member of the Texas Rangers, Brown had spent one season with the Baltimore Orioles before joining Florida in 1996.
Against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 21, 1996, Brown didn’t have his best stuff. Still his offense came through as he picked up the win in a 5-4 victory at Joe Robbie Stadium.
After four scoreless innings, the Dodgers broke through against Brown in the fifth on an RBI single from Todd Hollandsworth, the eventual NL Rookie of the Year and future world champion with the Marlins. An inning later, Eric Karros’ three-run blast extended the lead to four. Even after Terry Pendleton broke up the shutout for Florida with an RBI single, an 0-4 start for Brown looked inevitable. The Marlins were on the short end of a 4-1 score and Brown’s night was done.
Florida had chased starter Pedro Astacio, but Antonio Osuna didn’t look like he was going to have much problem with the Marlins lineup. After giving up a lead-off single to Charles Johnson to start the seventh, Osuna got Kurt Abbott to fly out before striking out Andre Dawson. Quilvio Veras then singled to right field to bring the tying run to the plate and Osuna’s night was done.
With runners on the corners in a 4-2 game, Darren Hall was called upon to face Gary Sheffield. After falling behind 2-1 in the count, Hall gave Sheffield a pitch he could handle and the All-Star outfielder didn’t miss it.
Sheffield’s three-run homer gave the Marlins a 5-4 lead and capped the scoring. Instead of being on the hook for the loss, Brown was now in line for the win. David Weathers, Yorkis Pérez and Terry Mathews combined to keep the Dodgers off the board over the final two innings to preserve the victory.
Early on in the contest, tempers flared between the teams. Astacio hit Florida first baseman Greg Colbrunn in the helmet in the second inning. When Astacio came to the plate in the third, Brown threw behind him. Benches cleared, but there were no ejections.
Brown would go on to win 17 of his final 25 decisions and lead the National League with a 1.89 ERA. He finished second to John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 National League Cy Young Award voting. The 17 wins at the time was a Marlins’ franchise record.
Brown would go on to make the All-Star Game in each of his two seasons with the Marlins. Over that stretch, Brown won 33 games. The first of those came on this day a quarter-century ago.