A.J. Ellis hacked away, fouling off pitch after pitch after pitch. Eventually, after 10 fouls and two balls, he worked the count full.
With a runner on second, two outs and facing his 14th pitch, Ellis needed a hit — almost any hit — to break the tie score.
And he delivered.
His single to center field off a 99-mph fastball drove in Derek Dietrich, gave the Marlins the lead and proved to be the difference in Miami’s 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon at Marlins Park. The win was Miami’s ninth in its past 12 contests and gave it the series victory over Arizona.
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“I was just glad I didn’t have to swing anymore. My back and my obliques were getting gassed,” Ellis said. “It was a great feeling.”
The game teetered between two extremes, starting with missed opportunities. The Marlins left 11 runners on base, while the Diamondbacks left eight men on.
The second extreme was a steady stream of runs. Both teams exploded for three-run innings and scored across multiple frames.
In addition to Ellis, Miami got its runs from first baseman Tyler Moore, who blasted a three-run homer in the second inning, and Dietrich, who notched a pair of sacrifice flies. Even before the runs, though, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said he was feeling confident.
“Even in the middle when it was tied up,” he said, “I already felt like we’d won.”
The starting pitching, meanwhile, wasn’t as impressive.
Miami’s Vance Worley was shaky from the game’s first hitter, Daniel Descalso, who ruined any hopes of a second consecutive no-hitter by hitting a leadoff double. And it didn’t get easier for Worley.
He was removed after 3 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs. A double given up by reliever Dustin McGowan also pushed through Worley’s last remaining baserunner, giving him five earned runs allowed on the day and inflating his ERA to 6.59.
But McGowan combined with Kyle Barraclough, Jarlin Garcia, Nick Wittgren, David Phelps and A.J. Ramos to finish the game for Miami. None of them allowed a run. Wittgren earned the win and Ramos recorded a save.
“The bullpen really picked me up,” Worley said.
The victory completed an 8-2 homestand and sends Miami on a seven-game trip with momentum — something the Marlins lacked ahead of their previous road trip.
“The locker room’s been a lot better,” Moore said. “It’s just awesome coming to see these guys every day. And we’re winning some games, and things are really turning around.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Edison Volquez’s no-hitter on Saturday was the sixth in 25 seasons of Marlins baseball. But no-hitters are actually even more rare for Marlins catchers than they are for pitchers.
All six no-hitters were thrown by different pitchers, but the first three were all orchestrated behind the plate by the same player: Charles Johnson.
Johnson was then joined by Miguel Olivo, Koyie Hill and, on Saturday, J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto was quick to shift all the credit back to Volquez when asked about his role in the milestone.
“I’m not sure how much I had to do with it,” he said.
However, he also spoke about how he had never — at any level — caught a no-hitter or perfect game.
The closest Realmuto could remember was getting to the seventh or eighth inning of a minor-league game.
“It’s really hard to do,” he said, “so it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
▪ Mattingly said Volquez’s next start is in jeopardy after he twisted his ankle on the first play of his no-hitter.
“It was a little swollen, and it’ll probably be touch-and-go by the time we get there,” Mattingly said. “So if we were in the NFL, he’d be on the questionable list.
“I’m hoping he’ll be able to make it with a few days of treatment. … It looked like he was walking OK. So we’ll just see.”
▪ Since Phelps hit rock bottom in mid-April, he’s rocketed out of the abyss to become one of Miami’s most reliable relievers.
Back on April 21 was the bottom.
That’s when Phelps allowed four earned runs in two innings against San Diego, sending his ERA soaring to 8.10.
Since then, in 19 innings of work out of the bullpen, Phelps hasn’t allowed a single earned run and his ERA has dropped to 2.89.
▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Dan Straily (4-3, 3.56 ERA) at Chicago Cubs RHP Eddie Butler (2-1, 4.42), 8:05 p.m., Wrigley Field.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Jeff Locke (0-0, 1.59) at Cubs RHP Jake Arrieta (5-4, 4.60), 8:05 p.m., Wrigley Field.