Another near no-hitter by a Marlins starting pitcher was followed by more late-inning drama against the Pirates.
Christian Yelich made sure the Marlins came out on top again with a game-winning double in the bottom of the 12th inning that lifted them to a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night at Marlins Park.
Following a 10-0 loss to start the four-game series, the Marlins (29-25) won their third in a row against the Pirates (29-24).
“That’s a good club over there that thumped us pretty good the first game [Monday],” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Jose [Fernandez] kind of turned the tide and got it back in our court. It was a good win for us. I think the guys hung in there. Yelich swung the bat good all night.”
Yelich’s walk-off hit scored Martin Prado, who beat out a throw to first on the previous at-bat to avoid a double play and keep the inning alive.
It was the Marlins’ first walk-off victory of the season in what was their longest game so far. The Marlins also picked up their first extra-inning victory of the season after losing their first two.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to drive,” said Yelich, who went 3 for 6 and delivered the fourth walk-off hit of his career. “I got a good pitch and found the gap, and Martin was able to score.”
Ichiro Suzuki, who reached base four times, got two hits closer to the 3,000 mark and made two stellar catches earlier in the game, started the 12th-inning rally by drawing a walk against reliever A.J. Schugel.
Ichiro, who is now 35 hits away from 3,000, made a sliding catch to end the second inning to help Wei-Yin Chen escape a bases-loaded situation unscathed. Ichiro later back-tracked and made a leaping grab in front of the center-field wall that took a hit away from Jung Ho Kang in the fourth.
Both plays preserved Chen’s no-hit bid.
Chen carried the no-hitter and a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning and allowed only one hit in a start for the first time in his major-league career.
Kang broke up Chen’s no-hit bid with a double in the seventh inning. Chen walked Chris Stewart on the next at-bat. Mattingly took out Chen after he had thrown 100 pitches.
Chen threw six-plus innings, struck out five and walked three.
“I think my teammates gave me a lot of support defensively,” Chen said. “Ichiro made some great plays defensively, taking away two hits for me back there.”
With his usual late-inning combination of David Phelps and A.J. Ramos unavailable after pitching in consecutive games, and Mike Dunn having just returned from injury, Mattingly turned to Dustin McGowan and later Kyle Barraclough to try to close the game.
“We knew we had some guys down tonight, but I thought some guys stepped up,” Mattingly said. “It’s what you have to do. We’ve got confidence that we’re going to be in this thing for the long haul. If we end up breaking these guys early over one game then we’re going to be in trouble.”
McGowan allowed the two runners to score in the seventh on a double by Matt Joyce, but he worked his way out of the inning by striking out Josh Harrison. McGowan wiggled his way out of trouble again in the eighth after allowing the first two batters to reach.
Barraclough was called upon to close and was one strike from picking up his first career save, running a full count to pinch-hitter John Jaso with a runner at second and two outs. But Jaso lined a ball into center field that allowed Jordy Mercer to score and tie the game at 3.
Rookie Nick Wittgren, who had appeared in only six games before Thursday, held the fort until Yelich’s heroics and picked up his first career victory, pitching three shutout innings and striking out three.
“This is big to come in and throw three innings like that,” Wittgren said. “It goes back to when I was called up and A.J. [Ramos] pulled me aside and said to me that my stuff plays good [at this level]. He told me to just have confidence in my pitches and just be myself.”