Justin Nicolino posted the best start of his brief major-league career.
Jose Urena kept it from going to waste.
After Nicolino pitched a career-high 7 1/3 shutout innings, Urena rescued the Marlins during a wild eighth inning in which they used five relievers yet still hung on for a 2-0 victory over the Dodgers Wednesday night.
The Marlins (9-11) won their fourth consecutive game and third in a row against the Dodgers to win their first series at Dodger Stadium since 2010.
“Awesome,” Nicolino said when asked about Urena’s save. “Just for what happened in that situation and being in Dodger Stadium when the fans are into it every pitch, for him to come up after that whole ordeal happened and to come in cold out of the bullpen and get the job done.”
Nicolino, called up from Triple-A New Orleans to fill in for demoted starter Jarred Cosart, cruised along during a 99-pitch outing in which he allowed only two hits and walked two and struck out two.
He recorded 11 ground ball outs and before giving up a single to Justin Turner in the seventh had retired nine consecutive batters and 14 of his previous 16.
“I just feel better throwing everything for strikes and not throwing as many cutters,” Nicolino said. “I have a lot more confidence throwing my curveball. It’s still a work in progress but I’m throwing all my pitches and executing them as well as I possibly can.”
Nicolino exited the game with one out in the eighth inning.
Then things began to unravel for the bullpen, which had been spectacular during the previous three games, but had two key pitchers unavailable, closer A.J. Ramos and Kyle Barraclough, after being used in each of the past three games.
Bryan Morris walked pinch hitter Chase Utley on four pitches.
Manager Don Mattingly brought in lefty Cody Ege and the Dodgers countered with right-hander Yasmani Grandal. Ege walked Grandal.
Mattingly turned to David Phelps hoping he’d get them out of the inning.
After running the count to 2-2 to pinch hitter Joc Pederson, home plate umpire Todd Tichenor called balls on two of Phelps’ fastballs that landed in similar spots.
Phelps gestured toward Tichenor with hands outstretched and was immediately thrown out.
“I wasn’t arguing balls and strikes,” Phelps said. “I was more curious as to where the pitch was.
“Obviously I was frustrated with what I thought were two pretty good pitches. My arms went up. I understand that probably frustrated [Tichenor]. At the same time, I didn’t curse at him. I didn’t argue balls and strikes. I was seriously just asking where it was. I don’t know if he couldn’t hear me or if he just thought I was saying something else.”
Mattingly raced out to argue with Tichenor and was also ejected. It was his second ejection in less than a week after being tossed this past Friday in San Francisco for arguing balls and strikes.
“I’m trying to keep [Phelps] in the game,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, it’s just an emotional time. He’s trying to get that out. Things are going on, guys fighting. Guys are emotional. They want to win. I have no problem with that other than we’ve got to keep our emotions in check, and know when we have to stay in the game.”
Without Phelps, Barraclough or Ramos, the Marlins’ most reliable late-inning options thus far were exhausted.
Enter Urena, a versatile right-hander with experience as both a starter and reliever, who like Nicolino also opened the season in the minors.
Urena proceeded to strike out Yasiel Puig and then coaxed Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to Giancarlo Stanton to end the wild inning. He then retired the Dodgers in order in the ninth to record his first career save.
“I didn’t think about the crowd,” Urena said. “I just go out there and I just try to get ground balls to make a double play. In that situation you have to make a quality pitch.”
Nicolino, who went 5-4 last season with a 4.01 ERA in 12 starts, pitched effectively to contact Wednesday with a fastball consistently around 90-91 mph that touched 92 early in the game and a mix of cutters and more curveballs, which he said he’s felt more comfortable with during his stint in the minors to open the season.
Nicolino threw seven shutout innings twice during his rookie season, but allowed four or more hits each time.
He allowed only two hits in a seven-inning outing on Sept. 26 last season, but gave up one run in that start against the Braves. His longest outing came August 22 of last season when he went 7 2/3 innings against the Phillies.
In his lone previous start against the Dodgers on June 26 last year at Marlins Park, Nicolino gave up five earned runs in four innings in his first career loss.
“The way Justin pitched for us was tremendous,” Mattingly said. “That’s what we think this guy can be. He uses pitches. He attacked. He got us where we needed to be.”
The Marlins scored the only runs of the game on four hits in the first inning.
Stanton was unable to homer for the fourth consecutive game, but his broken bat single in the first plated the first run of the game. Marcell Ozuna followed with a single of his own to score Martin Prado who slid under the tag of Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis on a close play at the plate.