The first Florida Marlins left-handed pitcher to make multiple All-Star Game appearances and still the only pitcher in franchise history to win National League Rookie of the Year, Dontrelle Willis left the club as its all-time leader in wins. His final victory with the franchise came on this day 15 years ago.
Willis would make one final start for the Marlins, but the last win was a masterpiece. The dynamic lefty went eight strong innings in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
The Marlins were opening their final home series of the year as they arrived at Dolphin Stadium on Sept. 25, 2007. To begin a three-game set, Willis stole the show, allowing just two runs on two hits and three walks on 114 pitches.
Through seven innings, a single from Ryan Theriot had served as Chicago’s only hit off Willis. After working 1-2-3 innings in the first and second, Willis used the double-play ball to face the minimum in the fourth and fifth. He struck out two during a 1-2-3 sixth before working around an error in the seventh.
Down 4-0, the Cubs would finally get to Willis in the seventh. After Geovany Soto drew a walk, Craig Monroe’s two-run home run would cut the lead in half. With nobody out and the Marlins’ lead down to two, Willis was unflustered.
Following a flyout by Theriot and a groundout by Jason Kendall, Willis ended his night by striking out Alfonso Soriano swinging. It served as the Willis’ seventh strikeout of the game and the final pitch of his home tenure with the Marlins. Lee Gardner and Taylor Tankersley combined to work a scoreless ninth to seal the victory.
All four of Florida’s runs came in the second inning. As Willis did so often with the bat, he helped himself during the frame.
With two on and one out, Willis’ single loaded the bases. Hanley Ramirez would follow with a two-run single to get the scoring started. Willis and Ramirez scored later in the inning on a ground-rule double from Jeremy Hermida.
Willis would pitch in the regular season finale against the New York Mets, but it was a shortened outing in an 8-1 Marlins win. Ricky Nolasco would later break Willis’ franchise wins record, but the entertaining lefty remains in the top 10 in club history in wins, winning percentage, ERA and strikeouts.
Willis remains the club’s all-time leaders in complete games and shutouts. His final victory with the Marlins came up one inning shy of a complete game. It came on this day 15 years ago.