Marlins' Alvarez throws no-hitter against Tigers

BY foxsports • September 29, 2013

There have been few no-hitters as odd as the one Miami Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez pitched Sunday against the Detroit Tigers.

Alvarez didn’t allow a hit or run through nine innings, but couldn’t register an official no-hitter unless his teammates could score a run before he gave up a hit. The Marlins did just that in the bottom of the ninth, when Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen’s wild pitch with the bases loaded and two out allowed Giancarlo Stanton to scamper home.

With the 1-0 win secured, Alvarez bolted from the dugout and onto the field, where he was mobbed by his teammates at Marlins Park.

He struck out only four Tigers, but needed just one superb play to make history. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria leaped and snared a third-inning liner by Ramon Santiago.

Both Alvarez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, and Hechavarria came to Miami last November in a blockbuster, 12-player deal that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander – of all people – came just as close as Santiago to turning Alvarez’s gem into a one-hit shutout.

Verlander drilled a pitch down the line leading off the sixth inning that went well over the head of right fielder Stanton. Verlander’s eyes lit up as he ran down the line. Would this be his first major league hit? However, it sliced barely foul near the warning track. Verlander forced a smile while rounding first base.

He later said he had this message for Alvarez as he trotted back to the plate: “You’d never have heard the end of that if I got a hit.”

Verlander, now 0-for-26, is one out away from having been no-hit over the course of a nine inning game.

“I was a couple inches away from breaking it up,” said Verlander, who has thrown two career no-hitters.

Speaking through an interpreter, Alvarez said he was “super happy” about his accomplishment.

Alvarez, though talented, entered the game with a 14-23 record and 4.36 ERA over three seasons with the Jays and Marlins. He finished the season 5-6 with a 3.59 ERA.

“He had good stuff and pitched a tremendous game,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “But ..."

It wasn’t exactly Murderer’s Row in there for Detroit.

Leyland did not play Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez or Austin Jackson. And Prince Fielder was hit by Alvarez in the first inning for his only plate appearance in a contest that resembled a Grapefruit League game with liberal substitutions by Detroit.

Still, the Tigers got swept by the Marlins, who finished at 62-100. Detroit scored only three runs on 16 hits (Jhonny Peralta’s double on Friday being the only one for extra bases) in three games. Detroit finished the season with a 2-5 stumble against three bad teams while averaging only two runs per game.

“This could be a good thing because maybe it will be a wakeup call for our offense,” Leyland told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating.

Leyland’s visibly concerned about the run production from his team, which opens the playoffs Friday night in Oakland against the A’s.

“They start to count big-time again on Friday,” Leyland said.

Leyland said he “loved what I saw of Verlander,” who allowed three hits and struck out 10 in six impressive innings. Verlander gave up zero runs on nine hits and four walks with 22 strikeouts over 12 innings in his last two starts.

It’s a good sign that Verlander had two of his four double-digit strikeout efforts in his final two outings – even if he was facing the lowly Minnesota Twins and Marlins. He finished 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA and 219 strikeouts.

Detroit has only been no-hit twice since Randy Johnson’s gem in 1990, and the last one also came in Florida. Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Matt Garza did the honors on July 26, 2010 at Tropicana Field.

It was the third no-no in a Game 162, and the first one by a Marlin since current Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez got one in 2006.

Detroit was involved in another very strange no-hitter on April 30, 1967, when it beat the Baltimore Orioles, 2-1, despite Steve Barber and Stu Miller combining for a no-hitter against them. Three walks, one error and a wild pitch led to two runs in the top of the ninth, with Jake Wood scoring the winning run in Baltimore.

Alvarez became the rare no-hit pitcher to experience the final strokes of his masterpiece while in the dugout. Those strokes came from his teammates, who got two singles and a walk before Putkonen threw one in the dirt that catcher Brayan Pena could not block.

“What a unique feeling that’s got to be for him,” Verlander said.

It was a strange ending to a Central Division championship season for the Tigers.