25-year Marliniversary: Marlins outlast Devil Rays in 12 innings in first-ever meeting

A Marlins memory from this day in 1998.

A Marlins memory from this day in 1998.

The “Citrus Series” between Florida’s two Major League Baseball teams hasn’t evolved into the rivalry of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, but there have been some entertaining contests over the years.

On this day 25 years ago, the teams squared off for the first time. It took 12 innings, but the Florida Marlins came out victorious with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Devils Rays.

After four straight scoreless innings, the Marlins came to bat in the top of the 12th at Tropicana Field on June 22, 1998, looking to break the deadlock. Facing Tampa Bay’s Jim Mecir, the Marlins left a pair of runners on in the 11th. They wouldn’t let it happen again.

Mecir was able to get Todd Dunwoody to ground out to start the inning, but Edgar Rentería and Mark Kotsay followed with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out. On a 2-2 pitch, Todd Zeile popped one foul behind first base. Tampa Bay’s Fred McGriff was able to make the catch, but with his momentum going away from home plate, Renteria was able to tag up and score to give Florida the lead, 3-2.

In his second inning of work, Antonio Alfonseca made things interesting in the bottom of the 12th. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases for the Devil Rays with one out. Alfonseca was able to get Dave Martinez to ground to first baseman Derrek Lee, who fired home to get the lead runner. John Flaherty grounded out to end the game two pitches later.

Florida’s Jesús Sánchez and Tampa Bay’s Rolando Arrojo gave quality starts on the mound, but neither factored in the decision. Flaherty finished 3-for-4 for the Devil Rays in the loss. Kotsay finished 5-for-6 at the plate for the Marlins on a night in which they managed just nine hits.

Kotsay’s RBI single in the first got the scoring started. Tampa Bay took the lead in the sixth on a two-run home run from shortstop Kevin Stocker. Florida tied the game in the top of the seventh on an RBI groundout from Dunwoody.

Over the years, the now Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins have met more than 130 times. The Rays hold the all-time edge. The first-ever meeting, however, went to the team from South Florida in 12 innings. It came on this day a quarter-century ago.

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