The Marlins won their first road series of the season in weird, wild, extra-inning fashion Wednesday night.
But the bigger story as they come back home to face the division-leading Atlanta Braves on Friday -- down by only half a game in the standings -- is the right elbow of starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez.
The Marlins’ No. 3 starter exited Wednesday's 8-5, 10-inning victory over the Nationals with what the team called right elbow stiffness.
The Marlins (28-25) said it was for precautionary reasons. But it's never a good thing when an injury involves a pitcher's throwing elbow.
“My arm was tight, a little tight,” Alvarez said. “From the time I went out to the mound, from the beginning I felt it… [but] I’ll be fine for the next start.”
Alvarez didn’t refer to it as an elbow injury. He said he felt tightness all over his arm, something he’s felt in previous starts -- including when he made a start in San Diego earlier this month on the team’s 11-game West Coast trip.
Elbow injuries have hurt the Marlins plenty already this month. Jose Fernandez, the staff ace, was lost to season-ending Tommy John surgery two weeks ago after going on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain.
Reliever Carter Capps followed Fernandez to the disabled list on Tuesday with the same right elbow sprain injury. The Marlins said they're going to give Capps at least a month off hoping his elbow injury heals with rest.
Alvarez's prognosis remains to be seen. But if there’s a positive sign for Miami -- aside from what Alvarez said after Wednesday’s game -- it’s that his velocity didn't seem to take a hit Wednesday. He was still registering fastballs between 93 and 94 miles per hour in the fifth inning and throwing curveballs for strikes.
“I think he’s fine,” manager Mike Redmond said. “But we’ll see over the next couple days. He wanted to keep pitching. But we wanted to make sure it didn’t become anything serious. He had mentioned that it had tightened up on him. We just took him out to make sure it didn’t turn into anything.”
Losing Alvarez Wednesday night stung. Before the Marlins rallied for four runs in the 10th inning on a Casey McGehee bases-loaded single to left, and a Reed Johnson two-run double to right, the bullpen coughed up a 4-0 lead.
Chris Hatcher, recalled last week from Triple A New Orleans to fill the spot vacated by Carlos Marmol, was the first to replace Alvarez. But he provided little relief, giving up three runs on three hits before getting yanked after recording just two outs. One run scored on a Garrett Jones throwing error.
A.J. Ramos then couldn't protect a 4-3 lead in the seventh. After recording the first two outs of the inning, Wilson Ramos crushed a 2-0 fastball into the Marlins bullpen for his first home run of the season to tie the score at 4.
The damage could have been worse. But Giancarlo Stanton made a series of stellar defensive plays in right field to help keep the game tied through nine.
In the sixth, Stanton raced backwards and made a twisting, turning grab against the wall on an Anthony Rendon fly ball to keep the Marlins in front 4-3. Stanton then kept the score tied at 4 in the ninth with a pinpoint throw to get Ramos at second base as he was attempting to stretch a leadoff single down the right field line into a double.
In the second inning, Stanton turned a double play. He raced to his right and snagged a sinking line drive off the bat off Kevin Frandsen before making an off-balanced, one-hop throw without stopping to get Ian Desmond at first base. It was the fifth defensive double play by Stanton in his career and first since May 4, 2012 at San Diego.
Despite Stanton's stellar defensive plays, the Marlins almost sunk themselves with a few base-running gaffes early. Stanton was caught between second and third base in the fourth inning for an out on a single to right by Casey McGehee. Christian Yelich was tagged out at third on a grounder to short in the first inning. And McGehee was picked off at first base with two outs and Stanton standing on second base in the eighth inning.
Still, the Marlins found a way to win.
Mike Dunn magically worked himself out of a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in the eighth. He struck out Rendon, got Jayson Werth to pop out in the infield and Adam LaRoche to ground out to first base.
Then in the 10th inning, the Marlins bats awoke once again. McGehee had four hits including his one-out single off the base of the wall with the bases loaded to give the Marlins a 5-4 lead. Johnson then followed with a double to right to plate two more runs.
“There was a lot of stuff. I don’t even know where to start in that game,” Redmond said. “Really the play of the game for me was [Derek] Dietrich backing up the play with the bases loaded [in the eighth]. That ended up being a huge play. If that ball gets down that right field line its game over for us.
“Dunner got out the jam. At the end, we got some huge hits from guys off the bench. That’s a fish effort right there, guys just keep battling and fighting to the end.”