Derek Dietrich wasn’t the same player after a ground ball broke his nose during spring training in 2014.
He turned shaky in the field, stopped hitting at the plate and on July 1 was sent to the minors, never to be seen or heard from again.
Called up only a few days ago, Dietrich found his name on the lineup card for the first time on Monday — with the New York Yankees in the building, no less — after an injury sent regular third baseman Martin Prado to the bench.
So what did Dietrich do?
With his bat, he all but beat the Yankees alone in the Marlins’ 2-1 win in front of 33,961 at Marlins Park.
Dietrich set up the Marlins’ first run with a double.
He broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh with a solo blast off Masahiro Tanaka.
“That was a great feeling,” Dietrich said.
“Anytime you hit a home run to put your team ahead, against a team like that, it feels awesome.”
It wasn’t only Dietrich’s bat that pushed the Marlins past the Yankees on an electric night at Marlins Park, with fans evenly split in their loyalties.
Marlins starter Tom Koehler was brilliant on the mound against a team he followed as a child.
Koehler grew up eight miles from Yankee Stadium and his father, a police officer, worked the ticket-scalping detail there.
“I thought going into the game, since it was a different Yankee team than I grew up watching, that maybe the adrenalin and nerves wouldn’t be there,” Koehler said.
“But they were.”
Outside of a second-inning home run he gave up to Mark Teixeira, Koehler held his own against Tanaka.
He gave up only three hits over seven innings, never seriously threatened by the Yankees’ lineup.
“What an outing,” Marlins manager Dan Jennings said.
“He’s just gritty and he’s gutty, and he battles through. He gave us everything he had.”
SAFE AT HOME
Koehler has been exceptional at home this season at Marlins Park, where he has gone 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA.
Koehler also received help from his defense, especially from middle infielders Adeiny Hechavarria and Dee Gordon.
Hechavarria made a full-extension diving catch on Chase Headley’s line drive in the first inning and a leaping grap on another Headley line drive in the sixth.
Gordon made a leaping catch on Brett Gardner’s line drive in the third.
“Words can’t express how I feel about the way those middle infielders played defense today,” Koehler said.
“I don’t know if you expect web gems on a regular basis, but [Hechavarria] makes the difficult plays look so easy and natural.”
Jennings said Hechavarria and Gordon should receive All-Star consideration.
“It’s a recurring theme,” Jennings said.
“You’ve got two guys in the middle of that diamond that are Gold Glove candidates with the plays that they make, every night.”
After Dietrich reached on a hustle double in the second, Hechavarria’s single drove him in to make it 1-1.
The score remained that way until the seventh until Dietrich belted a 2-0 pitch from Tanaka deep to right to put the Marlins on top.
It was then left up to the bullpen.
Carter Capps pitched the eighth and struck out the side on 13 pitches.
In the ninth, A.J. Ramos gave up a leadoff walk to Brian McCann, then struck out Teixeira and Garrett Jones.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi then sent up Alex Rodriguez to pinch-hit, bringing the second-largest crowd of the season to its feet.
But Ramos took care of Rodriguez, retiring him on a fly ball to end it.
Afterward, Dietrich talked about the “adversity” of being sent to the minors last July 1 after struggling with the Marlins, and then having to work his way back up ever since.
“I came up under the impression I was going to help the club in any facet, whether it was off the bench or a spot start here and there,” Dietrich said.
“I just wanted a shot, and it came pretty quickly.”