For even baseball’s best pitchers, no-hitters are rare. Even more rare however for a pitcher is watching his no-hitter finalized from the on-deck circle. That was the case on Sunday for Miami Marlins’ starter Henderson Alvarez.
Alvarez had gone nine innings against the American League Central champion Detroit Tigers without surrendering a hit on Sunday and had allowed only one walk. But the game went into the bottom of the ninth scoreless and after Miami loaded the bases with two outs, Alvarez grabbed a bat. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alvarez had no chance of ending his no-hitter himself, but watched as Greg Dobbs stood at the plate. Dobbs had to do very little as Luke Putkonen’s pitch got away from catcher Brayan Pena and Giancarlo Stanton raced home from third base.
As Stanton touched the plate, Alvarez became the fifth pitcher in Marlins history to throw a no-hitter and the first since 2006 as Miami topped the Tigers 1-0. Alvarez also became the first pitcher to hurl a no-hitter at Marlins Park.
Oddly enough, the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter for the Marlins was also in the building. Anibal Sanchez, now a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, threw a no-no for the then Florida Marlins in 2006 and flirted with another in 2011. Sanchez actually pitched against Miami on Saturday night and went five shutout innings in a 2-1 loss, but was able to capture the ERA title in the American League. Also interesting is the fact that like Sanchez, Alvarez is a native Venezuelan.
The victory on Sunday capped a strong finish to the 2013 season for Miami. Not only did the Marlins sweep the division champion and playoff bound Detroit Tigers, Miami concluded the season with its first four-game winning streak of the year. All four victories came by a single run and the Marlins won in their final at-bat in three of them.
Saturday night was another emotional win for Miami as the Marlins rallied from a 1-0 deficit in the ninth inning to win it in 10. Ed Lucas drove in Christian Yelich with two outs in the ninth against Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit to force extras where Stanton delivered a bases loaded walk-off single.
Two nights prior, the Marlins were able to take a three-game series from Philadelphia by scoring a run in the bottom of the eighth on a throwing error by the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins. Steve Cishek pitched the ninth to convert a club-record 28th straight save for the Marlins.
The season is now complete and Miami finishes just 62-100 which is the worst record in the National League and second worst in all of baseball. But for a season in which so much went wrong, the Marlins could have simply sleepwalked through the final six-game homestand. Instead, they finished 5-1 and capped the season with a sweep of Detroit and a no-hitter.
There is no doubt that as the season went on, the young Marlins got better. After a 13-41 start that had Miami on pace to finish with the worst record in recent baseball history, the Marlins managed to play good baseball for the final two-thirds of the season finishing 49-59 in their final 108 games. While the attendance was poor and the names were not well known to even the most avid baseball fans, first-year manager Mike Redmond got the most out of his young club on a daily basis.
With the emergence of rookies like All-Star Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and for a brief period of time, Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins have a lot to feel good about in the not so distant future. The Marlins have one of the brightest young sluggers in baseball in Stanton while Cishek remains one of baseball’s best kept secrets at the back end of the bullpen.
For the fans loyal enough to come out and support the team on the final day of the regular season and throughout the season, Sunday’s no-hit victory will serve as a nice going away present. Most would view 62-100 for this club as overachieving and with a number of good young arms including Fernandez and Alvarez, the Miami rebuilding project appears to be going in the right direction. With a payroll that was about a third of what it was in 2012, Miami managed just seven fewer wins and have a number of pieces already in place for the future.