Throughout their 29-year history, the Florida/Miami Marlins have had plenty of postseason heroes. One of the best stories for the club made his debut 25 years ago today.
A Cuban defector, Liván Hernández, would collect two World Series wins as a rookie in 1997 and go on to be named the series MVP as the Florida Marlins took down the Cleveland Indians in seven games. His big-league debut came more than a year prior in a 12-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
At Joe Robbie Stadium on Sept. 24, 1996, the Marlins wasted no time taking control of the contest. Florida put together seven straight hits during a six-run first inning before adding three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Up 11-1 after five innings, Marlins’ starting pitcher Pat Rapp was done for the night. That made way for a 21-year-old native of Cuba to pitch for the first time in Major League Baseball.
Hernández started the sixth inning with a walk to Atlanta catcher Javier López, but struck out Dwight Smith six pitches later for his first big-league punch-out. Mike Mordecai would add a single for the Braves, but Hernández made it out of the inning unscathed.
In the seventh, Hernández gave up a single to Luis Polonia before walking Chipper Jones. He bounced back by getting Andruw Jones to ground into a double play. Eddie Pérez popped out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Hernández showed what he could do with the bat. Hernández pulled a single to left off Joe Borowski before coming around to score on Jerry Brooks’ RBI single. With the lead now 12-1, Hernández yielded just a walk during a third scoreless inning of relief.
In three innings of work, Hernandez allowed just three hits and two walks to go with a pair of strikeouts. At the plate, the Marlins finished with 21 hits, including one from Hernández.
Luis Castillo finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs in the win. Jeff Conine, Devon White, Jesus Tavarez, Greg Colbrunn and Charles Johnson each had two hits for the Marlins. White plated three runs while Conine and Johnson each came around to score twice.
In more than two full seasons with the Marlins, Hernández would pitch in 71 regular-season games and finish with a 24-24 record and 4.39 ERA. His lone relief appearance and lone appearance during the 1996 season came on this day a quarter-century ago.