Henderson Alvarez reverses fortune, delivers two-hit shutout

MIAMI — Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez recently sat at his apartment with family and friends reflecting on how good life can be and what he needed to do to reach the next level.

Since tossing a no-hitter on Closing Day 2013, Alvarez had opened this season with three rough starts. Over 14 2/3 innings, he had surrendered 12 runs (seven earned) on 25 hits with five walks and 10 strikeouts.

Then came Saturday night’s gem against the Mariners in a 7-0 victory at Marlins Park.

Alvarez (1-2) pitched a complete game two-hitter on just 90 pitches (62 strikes), flirting with a perfect game through five innings. He induced 17 groundouts, struck out four batters and walked none.

The recently turned 24-year-old slowed down one of the hardest hit balls for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria in the second on Justin Smoak’s leadoff swing. Giancarlo Stanton tracked down a ball in deep right-center by Abraham Almonte to lead off the fourth.

”I think you could sense the intensity and the way he was executing his pitches, you could tell he was on a mission,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.

Dustin Ackley broke up the no-hitter on the first pitch of the sixth with a single to center. Ackley was 2 for 9 against Alvarez entering Saturday with a double, a homer and an RBI.

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”That wasn’t the pitch I wanted to throw. It was a (sinker) a little high,” Alvarez said. ”I wanted to throw a change-up down. Those are things that happen during the game, and you can’t change them. (The no-hitter’s) something I thought about. But my mind-set was to go out there and get each out.”

A double play off the bat of Mike Zunino allowed Alvarez to face the minimum until the catcher’s one-out double down the third-base line in the ninth.

Zunino was the only Seattle baserunner to reach scoring position but was stranded there after consecutive groundouts to second by Nick Franklin and Abraham Almonte.

”When you run into a guy who’s got three or four pitches working and he’s a power pitcher it’s going to be tough,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. ”I don’t care who you are. If he’s commanding three or four pitches and he’s got plus-stuff on the fastball you’re probably going to have a long night. That’s what it was. He pitched extremely well tonight.”

It couldn’t come at a better time for Alvarez and the Marlins.

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Four days after allowing a season-high 12 hits over six innings against the Phillies, Alvarez regained his no-hit form.

Miami recorded its first series win since taking down the Padres during the opening week of the season. The Marlins will go for their first series sweep following their first complete game and shutout.

After a disastrous eight-game skid and nine losses out of 10, Miami has won three of four.

”I came out there, trying to keep the fastball down. I didn’t do that the start before,” Alvarez said. ”Everything came out right today.”

You can follow Christina De Nicola on Twitter @CDeNicola13 or email her at cdenicola13@gmail.com.