Neither Henderson Alvarez nor A.J. Burnett came anywhere close to throwing a no-hitter like each once did with the Marlins.
But in the showdown between the pitchers, it was Alvarez and the Marlins who came out on top in a 3-2 victory on Wednesday.
No no-hitter required.
It was one bad inning for Burnett that ended up costing him. Burnett, who tossed a nine-walk no-hitter for the Marlins in 2001, surrendered three runs on four hits in the fourth. He gave up only one other hit for the rest of his seven-inning outing, Marcell Ozuna’s second-inning single.
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Alvarez wasn’t quite as sharp, allowing seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.
But Alvarez navigated his way around trouble, working out of two bases-loaded jams — one in the second and the other in the fifth — with minimal damage on the scoreboard.
He gave up two runs, only one of which was earned.
The win brought the Marlins (39-39) back to .500 and put them in position to take the four-game series with another victory in Thursday’s finale.
For Alvarez, the performance further established him as the clear No. 1 man in the Marlins’ rotation, what with Jose Fernandez out for the season.
Alvarez, who delivered the fifth no-hitter in Marlins history in the final game of the 2013 season, has gone 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in nine starts since May 10 — the night after Fernandez’s season came crashing down with an arm injury. And over his past seven starts, Alvarez is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA.
“He’s pitching with confidence,” manager Mike Redmond said. “You’re watching a guy who is understanding what he can do, what he can become. He’s still a young guy. That’s the beauty of having young starters, is when they start to realize how good they can be, it’s fun to watch them pitch. And I think that’s what you’re seeing out of Henderson right now.”
Alvarez induced three double-play grounders out of the Phillies. One of those, a comebacker to the mound, he started himself in the fourth inning with two aboard and no outs.
“I was able to get the double plays, and they helped me a lot to keep my pitches down,” Alvarez said.
After the Phillies put the first two runners on in the second, he got Cody Asche to bounce into a double play, and in the sixth he got Ben Revere to bounce into another one.
Save for the fourth inning, the Marlins were quiet offensively. But they scored just enough runs in that one frame and made them stand up the rest of the way.
Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee each singled with one out. After Burnett struck out Garrett Jones, Ozuna drove in one run with a double, and the Marlins added two more on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s double to left-center.
Otherwise, Burnett was close to un-hittable.
“He reminds me a lot of Josh Beckett. They’re not the same guys now,” said Redmond, who caught both Burnett and Beckett in his playing days. “It’s crazy for me to say back where we came from. We couldn’t get them to throw a breaking ball to save their lives. They just wanted to throw every pitch 98 miles an hour. They’ve learned how to pitch. It’s kind of fun to watch.”
Alvarez received some help from the Marlins bullpen. Mike Dunn took over for him in the seventh and recorded the final out. Kevin Gregg and Steve Cishek combined to set the side down in order in the eighth and ninth innings.