In today’s Plate Appearance of the Day series, we look at a D-Train moment in 2004.
Today’s Season: 2004
Seasonal Game: 88, July 11th, 2004, New York Mets visit Florida Marlins.
Plate Appearance: 44-of-71
Seasonal Outlook: Still the defending World Series Champions, the Florida Marlins were 44-43, in fourth in the crowded National League East. Despite their standing, they were only two-and-a-half games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies. Starting Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis was making the 18th start of his second major league season, sitting at 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA. He was just 22-years-old.
Their opponents, the New York Mets, were a half-game better, at 44-42. Their starter, Al Leiter, had once turned in a 5.5 WAR season for the Marlins, back in 1996. Now in the 18th season of his eventual 19 season major league career, Leiter was 5-2 with a 2.05 ERA in 14 starts for the Mets.
The Mets and Marlins took the field at 3:05 P.M. local time at Pro Player Stadium, with a paid attendance of 25,735 on hand. D-Train had kept the Mets scoreless through the first five innings, on three hits and a walk. He also had four strikeouts in the can. In the bottom of the third, Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine went deep with the bases jacked for his sixth home run of the season and a 4-0 Florida lead.
Leading off the top of the sixth inning for the New York Mets was 38-year-old third baseman Todd Zeile, himself a former Florida Marlins alum. A career .265 hitter, he was at .241 at the start of this one.
Our Plate Appearance
Pitch One: Willis’ 82nd pitch of the night was a ball. I can’t find pitch-by-pitch advanced box scores from that era, so I imagine it was low.
Pitch Two: Willis painted the lower inside corner of the plate with a two-seamer at 89 MPH. Zeile just froze on it.
Pitch Three: A nasty curve ball jammed Zeile up for a foul down the first base side into the stands.
Pitch Four: Another two-seamer, this time at 90 MPH. Zeile barely got a piece to keep the count at one-and-two.
Pitch Five: Willis got Zeile to chase the change. Zeile was looking fastball, and swung through early for D-Train’s fifth K of the game.
The Rest of the Game
Still leading by two runs, Mike Lowell hit a double into right field to score Luis Castillo for insurance. It was enough, as the Marlins cashed in a 5-2 victory. Billy Koch struck out four in 1 2/3 perfect innings, and Armando Benitez collected his 30th save of the season.
The Rest of the Season
Miami posted a 38-36 record for the rest of the season to finish at 83-79, one of only six times they finished above .500 through their first 26 years. The New York Mets just fell apart, and went 27-48 the rest of the way. Still, both clubs were miles behind the division winning Atlanta Braves. Here’s some highlights of Willis, courtesy of the You Tube page of Rey Gutierrez. Here’s a look at Willis’ unique pitching style, courtesy of the You Tube page of Jorge I. Cansino.
More from Marlins History
- Miami Marlins One-Year Wonder 1B
- Miami Marlins players & the 2023 Hall of Fame
- Former Miami Marlins star is retiring
- Gary Sheffield or Mark Buehrle, will either Marlin make the Hall of Fame?
- Why don’t we see more dynasties? Part 3
Willis spent five seasons with the Florida Marlins in total, going 68-54 with a 3.78 ERA, a team-third 757 K’s in a team-second 1022 2/3 innings, and a 1.359 WHIP. His win total is good for second all-time for the team, as are his 162 career starts on the hill. His 15 complete games and eight shutouts are club records.
After leaving the Marlins, Willis went 4-15 over the next four seasons between the Detroit Tigers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Cincinnati Reds.
The 2004 campaign was Zeile’s last, and he held up pretty well, ranking behind only Mike Cameron with 137 games played. Zeile retired with 2004 hits to his credit, appropriately, along with 253 homers and 1110 RBI.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. Keep it locked in here for Miami Marlins news, profiles, predictions, and memories.