Gillespie the hero on night of firsts

Limited to pinch-hit duty all season, outfielder had been 0-for-8 with six K's

Gillespie the hero on night of firsts

ST. PETERSBURG -- Cole Gillespie walked toward Miami's clubhouse with white shaving cream smeared over his face as a badge of honor.

On Wednesday night, the Marlins' outfielder became well-acquainted with the thick substance after teammate Miguel Rojas crept behind Gillespie's left shoulder and delivered the celebratory pie to the face of the hero of the night following a 4-3 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.

A brief postgame face wash was a small price to pay for Gillespie, who went 2-for-5 with a go-ahead RBI single to right field off reliever Tyler Sturdevant that scored J.T. Realmuto and propelled Miami to its second victory over Tampa Bay in this Citrus Series. Lifted into a starting role with outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (right side soreness) and Christian Yelich (back spasms) nursing ailments, Gillespie made the most of his first start this season.

Gillespie's RBI single

"It's just been a pinch-hitting role so far, so I've been kind of eager to get that first start out of the way," Gillespie said. "Knowing that you're going to get more than one at-bat kind of gives you a little comfort throughout the game."

Gillespie hasn't been known as an offensive threat, especially this year. He entered Wednesday 0-for-8 with six strikeouts on the season. The last time he produced a multihit game was when he had two with an RBI in a loss to the Brewers on Aug. 19, 2015, at Miller Park.

Gillespie has traveled a winding road this season. He hit .382 with two RBIs in 34 at-bats during Spring Training, but he was designated for assignment on April 3. He cleared waivers and was sent outright to Triple-A New Orleans on April 8. Then on April 29, he re-joined the Marlins, but until Wednesday, he hadn't received more than one at-bat in a single game.

"I feel like he has been swinging the bat pretty good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "His pinch-hits have been quality. You can tell he is seeing the ball [well]. ... Now it was nice to see him get a couple of hits."

In addition to the RBI single in the eighth, Gillespie doubled to left field off right-hander Matt Andriese with one out in the fourth. He hopes more games with multiple at-bats will follow, with a greater number of hits to come.

"Hopefully some more consistent at-bats can come," Gillespie said. "Whatever the role is, I'll be ready for it."

Even if that role demands he be ready for more face washes.

"Rojas, my Venezuelan brother, got me a couple times out there," Gillespie quipped. "So I suppose he's due for something here soon."

Andrew Astleford is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Marlins on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.