If not for Clayton Kershaw, a convincing argument could be made that Henderson Alvarez is the best pitcher in the majors at the moment. On Sunday, Alvarez provided further evidence of that, pitching and hitting the Marlins to an 8-4 victory over the Cardinals.
By taking two out of three games at Busch Stadium, the Marlins recorded only their second series win in St. Louis since their World Series season in 2003.
Not only did Alvarez pick up the win with another dazzling performance on the mound, holding the Cardinals to just a run over seven innings, but did his part at the plate with three hits.
“I work hard on my hitting and pitching,” Alvarez said. “But I’m just focused on being a pitcher.”
Alvarez has been nothing but sensational since the middle of May, stepping up in the absence of Jose Fernandez.
Since May 22, Alvarez has:
• Gone 4-0 with a 1.01 ERA.
• Allowed only one home run — a Kolten Wong solo shot on Sunday.
• Has not given up more than two runs in any one outing.
Alvarez also set a franchise mark on Sunday, becoming the first pitcher to make 10 consecutive starts in which the Marlins have ended up with the win. The previous mark of nine successive starts with a Marlins win was set in the inaugural 1993 season by Chris Hammond.
As if his mound performance wasn’t impressive on its own Sunday, Alvarez also contributed at the plate with three hits, including a leadoff single in the sixth that kicked off a 3-run inning for the Marlins. With a .250 average, Alvarez is tied with the Cubs’ Travis Wood for the batting lead among pitchers.
“He was pretty good out there,” said manager Mike Redmond. “I think you guys saw that today. Not only was his pitching outstanding, but he got a couple of big hits and really got us going in that big sixth inning. He had a great day.”
Alvarez said he felt hot and a “little weak” to start the game, but gradually settled into a rhythm, retiring the side in the second and third innings and not allowing the Cardinals to get on the board until Wong hit a one-out home run in the seventh.
Though the Marlins had no problem putting men on base against Cardinals starter Marco Gonzales, they had trouble driving them in. The Marlins loaded the bases in the third and fifth innings without scoring.
Gonzales managed to make it through just 4 2/3 innings and, despite allowing seven hits and walking five, was charged with just one run. But the Marlins finally broke through in the sixth, as Marcell Ozuna drove in a pair of runs with a 2-out single and Jeff Baker scored another with his RBI single.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s three-run homer in the eighth put the Marlins ahead, 8-1. And after the decision was made by Redmond to take Alvarez out after the seventh, the Cardinals chipped away at the Marlins’ bullpen.
Kevin Gregg gave up two runs in the eighth and Dan Jennings surrendered another run in the ninth before Chris Hatcher took over and sealed the win before the Marlins had to resort to Steve Cishek, who was warming up in the bullpen.
For Alvarez, the win improved his record to 6-3 while lowering his ERA for the season to 2.27.
“We talked about needing guys to step up,” Redmond said. “It was an opportunity for somebody to step up, and Henderson has been that guy. He’s been that guy to come to the forefront. He’s our guy, time after time.”