Alvarez nets no-hitter with wild, walk-off victory

Stanton scores game-winner on errant pitch to cap historic final day

September 29th, 2013

MIAMI -- Henderson Alvarez opened the season on the disabled list, and the 23-year-old ended it by etching his name in Major League history.
In one of the most bizarre finishes to a landmark game, Alvarez completed his no-hitter by watching from the on-deck circle.
The Marlins completed the fifth no-hitter in franchise history in walk-off fashion, with Giancarlo Stanton racing home on a wild pitch in the ninth inning to secure a 1-0 victory over the Tigers in front of 28,315 at Marlins Park.
"You need to have a little luck to throw a no-hitter. We definitely had that today," manager Mike Redmond said.
The luck at the end went the Marlins' way, but that didn't take anything away from the fact that Alvarez was sensational, going the distance and striking out four on 99 pitches. Still, he didn't know if it was good enough, because the Marlins hadn't scored a run through eight innings.
Caught up in the moment, Alvarez had actually lost sight of the fact that the game was scoreless.
"I was so excited," said Alvarez through an interpreter. "I thought by the ninth inning that I just needed three outs for the no-hitter. With my emotions and nerves, I kind of lost track that we hadn't scored a run yet."
That elusive run came on a wild pitch, prompting a wild celebration at home plate. Rookie Jose Fernandez literally took the jersey off Alvarez's back and displayed it to the fans, who cheered one of the most memorable closing days in club history.
"They were pulling on my jersey and kind of choking me, so I took it off," Alvarez said.
Fernandez, Alvarez's close friend, was rooting hard the entire game.
"It was crazy," Fernandez said. "When I don't pitch, I'm a fan of my team. I see this guy working hard every day. I'm a fan."
The rest of the Marlins were striving to do anything to end the game in historic fashion.
"I've never seen it where we got a walk-off win and we're mauling the pitcher instead of the guy who got the hit or scored the run," said Logan Morrison, who hit a single in the ninth as part of the rally.
Combining a no-hitter with a walk-off win is a rarity. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it hadn't been done since July 12, 1997, when the Pirates beat the Astros.
The drama built in the top of the ninth as Alvarez took the mound, with the crowd on its feet for every pitch. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila tapped back to Alvarez for the first out, and Don Kelly did the same, with Alvarez making a leaping play to snare the hot chopper.
Andy Dirks then drew a four-pitch walk, bringing up Matt Tuiasosopo. Alvarez, who entered the showdown at 89 pitches, ran the count full, and the crowd erupted when Tuiasosopo swung through a 95-mph fastball.
But it was an awkward moment, because despite pitching nine no-hit innings, Alvarez wasn't able to celebrate, as neither team had crossed the plate.
The Marlins finally broke through off Luke Putkonen. Stanton and Morrison delivered one-out singles and advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. With the infield in, Adeiny Hechavarria -- who'd helped preserve the no-hitter with a terrific leaping catch to rob Ramon Santiago of a line-drive single in the third inning -- tapped a high grounder to short for the second out. Chris Coghlan walked, bringing up Greg Dobbs, pinch-hitting for catcher Koyie Hill.
Putkonen's first pitch bounced away from catcher Brayan Pena, and Stanton raced home and into a mob scene.
"I was hoping for a wild pitch," said Alvarez. "When I saw the wild pitch, I got really excited."
The atmosphere was electric on a day the Marlins completed the three-game sweep and won four straight for the first time all year.
"There was nothing like this all year," Stanton said. "There hasn't really been anything that exciting all year for us."
Had the game gone to the 10th, Redmond would have let Alvarez go for one more inning, or no more than around 115 pitches.
From his position in front of the Marlins' bullpen, Stanton saw Arquimedes Caminero warming up.
"Just the sight of watching Caminero warming up in the 'pen, I was like, 'I do not want him in this game,'" Stanton said. "I want to end it now for him."
Alvarez finished strong in a season that started with him on the DL because of inflammation in his right shoulder. He didn't make his first start until July 4.
"I really was focusing on finishing strong, and to go out there on my last day and have a good start," Alvarez said. "The no-hitter just makes me go into the offseason wanting to work even harder. It's a way to motivate me and prepare me for next season."
Tracking the total number of 1-0 walk-off wins on wild pitches is tough, since play-by-play hasn't always been tabulated, but Elias provided two previous times. On April 10, 1980, the Rangers edged the Yankees, 1-0, in 12 innings on Goose Gossage's wild pitch. And on April 15, 1972, the Angels beat Texas, 1-0, on Paul Lindblad's wild pitch in the ninth.
"It was different," Redmond said. "I've never really been a part of something like this. But I just saw the run was going to be so tough to get."
Alvarez joins Al Leiter (1996), Kevin Brown (1997), A.J. Burnett (2001) and Anibal Sanchez (2006) in the franchise's no-hitter club. Fittingly, Sanchez was in the ballpark to welcome the club's newest member.
The last no-hitter on the closing day of the season was turned in by Mike Witt of the Angels against the Rangers in 1984.
The Tigers hadn't gone with their main lineup in this one, as manager Jim Leyland rested his regulars to get ready for the postseason.
Miguel Cabrera did not start, and Prince Fielder -- one of only three Tigers to reach base, hit by a pitch in the first inning -- was replaced after two plate appearances.
"I was going to hit [Cabrera]," Leyland said. "But after I rethought it, I just said, 'You know, he's not really loose. It might take him too much time to get loose. Let's not take a chance.' I mean, if we had loaded the bases or something with one out, I might have done it. But you don't want to do anything silly."
The Tigers came close to a hit in the sixth inning. Justin Verlander -- who fanned 10 over six innings -- hit a long fly down the line in right field, but the ball landed just out of Stanton's reach, and it was a couple of feet foul.
Verlander, now 0-for-26 in his career, eventually struck out looking.
"Verlander's ball, I thought was fair," Alvarez said. "Then when he ran by me, he kind of gave a smile like he was saying, 'Be ready.' That's when I realized I should start to mix a slider in there. That was too close."