Henderson Alvarez shaky at first, settles down in return from DL

MIAMI — They call Miami Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez the entertainer, and with good reason.

From his opening kung fu windup to his eephus pitch, Alvarez never ceases to amaze spectators, teammates and opponents with his eccentric persona.

Upon his return to the mound from the disabled list, Alvarez pitched seven innings in the Marlins’ 2-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

"He did a great job today, and he’s a unique player for sure," manager Mike Redmond said. "We talked about that (eephus) pitch and when it was gonna come, and he threw two of them. But this guy competes and I think the beauty of Hendy, and I hope and I think this is true, he’s realized how good he is this year and this guy, he’s got great stuff. You saw that tonight. He threw some pitches early but really settled in and made them be aggressive and limited his pitches which allowed him to get through the seventh inning and that’s exactly what we needed.

"This guy is a great competitor, a great athlete and is a big part of our team. You could just feel it out there that it was a different atmosphere with him on the hill."

In the first, Alvarez didn’t look like his dominant self, as Arizona collected three straight hits. Despite an assist by Marcell Ozuna on a throw to the plate, a double steal and sacrifice fly put the Diamondbacks up 1-0.

"At the beginning of the game I was trying to figure it out," Alvarez said through a translator. "I wasn’t myself at the beginning. I found myself out of the normal zone I’m in and in the inning. I was able to catch myself and get into the rhythm of the game."

Marlins vs. Diamondbacks

After tossing 20 pitches in the first, Alvarez needed just 69 over the next six frames. He retired seven of the following eight batters as well as his final nine, allowing four hits in total. Alvarez walked one and struck out six.

"You could tell he was a little rusty but figured some things out, started getting back down in the zone and getting some early outs," catcher Jeff Mathis said. "It’s pretty fun. He’s got the sinker to both sides, four-seamer to both sides, changeup and then the slider. When he settled down and settled in it makes it really tough on those hitters. He got in that groove from the third to the seventh."

Despite asking to remain in the game to pitch the eighth, Redmond and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez thought it best to end his night. Alvarez missed two starts with right shoulder inflammation and didn’t go on rehab assignments.

Plus, they likely didn’t want to tempt fate. A scary moment arose in the fourth when Mark Trumbo sent a comebacker to Alvarez. It hit between his hand and wrist. After two warm-up throws, he remained in the game and sent down 11 of the next 12.

With the victory, Alvarez improved to 9-5 and lowered his ERA to 2.43. The All-Star entered Saturday with the fifth-lowest mark in the National League. Miami can reach .500 for the first time since July 29 with a win in Sunday’s series finale. The Marlins pulled within 3 ½ games of the NL Wild Card.

"I’m just thankful everything went well today," Alvarez said. "I was able to help my team. I just try to go out there and focus on the game and focus on my work. We’re in the middle of the hunt, so this is a very important stretch for us."

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