The ovation started early. Very early. Edinson Volquez wasn’t even on the mound yet. Instead, he stood at home plate as Miami’s last hitter of Saturday’s game.
When he struck out swinging, 21,548 fans cheered as he trotted back to the dugout and prepared to send them home with an unforgettable baseball memory. As he prepared to complete a no-hitter.
When he emerged, fans savored every pitch. Marlins Park teetered between cheers of relief and intense silence while watching Volquez strike out the first two hitters of the ninth inning. All he had to do was retire Arizona pinch-hitter Chris Owings.
He notched two strikes as fans rose and cheers shattered the silence. Then there was a changeup in the dirt, a swing-and-miss and a throw to first.
The real ovation could finally begin.
With the strikeout of Owings, Volquez completed the sixth no-hitter in Marlins history in a 3-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s like a dream come true,” he said.
Volquez became the first Marlins pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Henderson Alvarez did in Miami’s 2013 season finale. He joined Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, Anibal Sanchez and Alvarez as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in Miami’s history.
Saturday was also the Marlins’ first complete game since Alvarez threw one on June 3, 2014.
But Volquez’s performance — the best of his baseball career — almost didn’t happen.
Three pitches into the game, Marlins first baseman Justin Bour snagged a ground ball in the dirt and tossed it to Volquez for the out. As Volquez stepped on the base, he was hit from behind by Arizona center fielder Rey Fuentes. He ended up on the ground with his arms spread wide like a snow angel and his knees pointed up.
Marlins trainers came out to check on Volquez, who cautiously walked around the infield grass.
“I can’t pitch anymore,” he told them, saying that he had twisted his ankle. “It hurts.”
But after two warmup pitches, Volquez was cleared to stay in the game. By the fourth inning, he was begging to stay in the game.
“You’ve gotta let me pitch,” he told the trainers. “I’m feeling better.”
From there, a few key defensive plays by Bour and second baseman Dee Gordon, as well as pinpoint fastball command, preserved Volquez’s piece of baseball history.
“It seemed like everything kinda lined up after that,” manager Don Mattingly said of the first-inning collision.
On offense, Miami got all the run support it needed in the bottom of the fourth thanks to an unlikely opposite-field bloop single by Bour. He collected another RBI with a double in the bottom of the eighth, and Marcell Ozuna drove in Miami’s other run.
Despite his production, though, Bour and every other Marlins player only wanted to talk about one thing after the game.
“That’s just one of those days,” he said, “that you’re not gonna ever forget.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ After a miserable stretch during which the Marlins went 5-20, the team is finally having some success. Miami (23-31) is 8-3 in its past 11 games. So what’s changed?
Not much, according to reliever Brad Ziegler.
He said the team’s mood has remained steady, adding that most players are used to facing streaks — both good and bad — once they reach the professional ranks. It’s just part of baseball.
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“There’s gonna be ups, there’s gonna be downs,” Ziegler said.
“Just don’t let the downs get the best of you and don’t get too high with the ups. Because this game always finds a way to humble you.”
Nevertheless, Mattingly is pleased with the recent success. And while he embraces the “one-day-at-a-time” mentality common among coaches, he’s hoping to ride the wave to contention.
Entering Saturday, the Marlins were fourth in the National League East, 12 games behind the first-place Nationals but only one game behind the second-place Mets.
“We do have a little bit of traction,” Mattingly said. “Hopefully, we can move our way back to .500 and make a move.”
▪ Mattingly said he would like to get reliever Kyle Barraclough a few low-pressure outings to help him through his recent struggles.
In his past four appearances entering Saturday, Barraclough gave up five earned runs in two innings. His ERA swelled to 4.43 as a result.
“I’d like to get him a couple innings … where the game’s not totally on the line,” Mattingly said. “So that’s what I’ll try to do.”
▪ Starter Justin Nicolino, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Thursday with a “left index finger contusion,” should be ready to pitch as soon as he’s eligible. Mattingly said he threw a bullpen on Saturday and was “fine.”
Nicolino is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in three starts this season. His stay on the DL resulted from taking a pitch to the hand while attempting to bunt on Tuesday night.
Vance Worley will start in his place on Sunday.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Worley (0-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Braden Shipley (0-1, 6.75), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (4-3, 3.56) at Chicago Cubs RHP Eddie Butler (2-1, 4.42), 8:05 p.m., Wrigley Field.
All-time Marlins no-hitters
May 11, 1996
June 10, 1997
May 12, 2001
Sept. 6, 2006
Sept. 29, 2013
June 3, 2017
Going the distance
Volquez’s no-hitter snapped the Marlins’ 480-game streak without a complete game, which coincidentally began June 3, 2014, when Henderson Alvarez, who threw the previous Marlins’ no-hitter, went the distance against Tampa Bay. The streak was an all-time major-league record for a team to go without a complete game.
Volquez had recently matched the longest winless start to open a season in team history, losing his first seven decisions and matching the previous record set by Joe Fontenot in 1998. Volquez’s no-hitter Saturday improved his record this season to 2-7.
ANDRE C. FERNANDEZ