It’s been four years since he last threw a pitch in Major League Baseball and eight since he last threw one for the Miami Marlins, but in club history, no one has won more games for the Marlins than Ricky Nolasco.
The first of those came on this day 15 years ago. Largely a starter throughout his career, Nolasco’s first career win came in relief. Nolasco threw two scoreless innings of relief on April 26, 2006 as the Florida Marlins topped the Chicago Cubs, 7-5.
The contest was tied 3-3 through 5 ½ innings when Nolasco was called upon to pitch the bottom of the sixth at Wrigley Field. Nolasco worked around a two-out single from Aramis Ramirez with a strikeout of Ronny Cedeno and a pair of groundouts.
Florida went in order in the top of the seventh, but in the bottom of the inning, the rookie struck out the side. Nolasco got Jerry Hairston, Jacque Jones and Henry Blanco all swinging to end the frame. In the top of the eighth, the Marlins’ offense would reward Nolasco’s effort by putting him in line for the win.
After three walks by Cubs reliever Scott Williamson loaded the bases, Florida pinch hitter Wes Helms helped unload them with a two-run double off Bob Howry. The Marlins would tack on one more on Miguel Olivo’s sacrifice fly to make it 6-3.
The Cubs answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning on a single by Matt Murton, but Florida’s Matt Herges was able to strike out Hairston to end the threat. Mike Jacobs added an RBI single for the Marlins in the top of the ninth before Joe Borowski worked a scoreless ninth to earn the save.
The Cubs scored first in the second inning on a solo homer by Ramirez, but the Marlins pushed across three in the fourth. After Josh Willingham’s two-run home run gave the Marlins the lead, Matt Treanor doubled that advantage with an RBI single.
Chicago drew even in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI groundout by Hairston, which was aided by a throwing error by Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez. That score would remain until the eighth.
By the middle of May, Nolasco had moved into the starting rotation, where he would stay for the remainder of his tenure with the Marlins. In eight seasons in South Florida, Nolasco won 81 games, besting Dontrelle Willis’ team record by 13. The first of those victories came on this day 15 years ago.