Jose Urena was the Marlins’ last viable option out of the bullpen on Wednesday night.
During a tumultuous eighth inning in which three relievers had already been used, and one of their best, David Phelps, had been ejected, Marlins manager Don Mattingly turned to the 24-year-old Dominican, who was brought back to the team from the minors less than a week ago.
Urena rescued the Marlins from impending disaster by retiring two of the Dodgers’ best sluggers in Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez to escape a bases-loaded situation and preserve a 2-0 shutout.
“That was impressive,” Mattingly said.
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“Obviously, you go into a bases-loaded situation and they have momentum on their side, and he came in and threw strikes. That was a big thing because we had a two-run lead, and he could have given up a ground ball or a sacrifice fly.”
Urena first attacked Puig with three fastballs and then dropped a changeup to strike him out. His third pitch to Gonzalez on a 1-1 count was another fastball that Gonzalez skied to Giancarlo Stanton for the final out of the inning.
Urena then worked a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up 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. That was tough because [it was] a big situation. I’m proud that we can get the save and get the win.”
According to Elias, the Marlins became the first team in major-league history to have three pitchers that failed to record an out during a shutout.
The bullpen had been spectacular during the Marlins’ previous three games but had two key pitchers unavailable in closer A.J. Ramos and Kyle Barraclough, who had pitched in each of the previous three games.
After Justin Nicolino pitched a career-high 7 1/3 innings in his first start of this season, Bryan Morris walked pinch-hitter Chase Utley on four pitches.
Lefty Cody Ege replaced Morris and walked right-handed pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal, prompting the move to Phelps.
After running the count to 2-2 to pinch-hitter Joc Pederson, home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor called balls on two fastballs that landed in similar spots that Phelps felt were strikes.
Phelps gestured toward Tichenor with hands outstretched and was immediately thrown out.
Mattingly confronted Tichenor about it and was also ejected. It was his second ejection in less than a week after being tossed Friday in San Francisco.
“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.”
In Urena’s earlier appearance last Friday, he gave up two runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings, striking out only one in an 8-1 loss to the Giants.
Last season, Urena pitched in a save situation only once and gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Urena went 1-5 with a 4.86 ERA last season in nine starts, with nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (21). In 11 relief appearances, he finished with a 6.46 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with an even seven walks and seven strikeouts.
“With Jose, it’s continuing to work on his breaking ball,” Mattingly said.
“He’s got a really good changeup. When his mechanics are good the ball dies down toward the plate. When it’s not and he gets out of that the ball kind of runs sideways and it’s a lot easier to hit. But when he’s got his mechanics straight and toward home plate, the ball has a lot of sink to it and he becomes a lot harder to hit.”