Henderson Alvarez couldn’t notch his sixth win of the season Tuesday night.
Kevin Gregg coughed that up for him.
But thanks to Ed Lucas’ game-winning hit in the bottom of the 11th — which propelled the Marlins to a 5-4 walk-off victory in front of 18,518 fans at Marlins Park — Alvarez did notch a piece of team history.
He tied Chris Hammond (May 19-July 2, 1993) for the longest consecutive team-winning streak as the Marlins won for the ninth consecutive time with Alvarez on the mound.
Lucas, who entered the game as a defensive substitute in the eighth, slapped a single off Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus into right field to plate Jeff Baker with the winning run.
Baker led off the inning with a pinch-hit single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
“I had a walk-off fielder’s choice [last season]. This one was a little better,” said Lucas, who was hitting only .192 against right-handers this season before his game-winning hit.
“After that kind of a streak [losing five 13-inning games in June], it started to build and starts to grate on you a little bit as a team. It was good to dump one in there and get us out of here for once.”
Lucas was the hero, but Alvarez was once again the savior in helping put an end to a four-game skid.
Short of paying for his own plane ticket to Minneapolis, Alvarez has pretty much done all he can do to earn himself a trip to the All-Star Game.
Tuesday night, he did his thing once again, delivering another stellar seven innings and putting himself in position to pick up the win before Gregg gave it away.
On his second tour of duty with the Marlins, Gregg surrendered back-to-back, two-out solo home runs in the eighth. Marlon Byrd hit the first blast off Gregg on a 2-1 pitch, a towering shot that bounced off the home run sculpture in left-center field. Cody Asche then drilled Gregg’s very next pitch off a column behind the right field wall to tie the score at 4.
For Gregg, it was the second blown save in the last five days. He blew 13 saves (including a National League-leading nine in 2008) in the two seasons the Marlins previously had him.
“That eighth inning continues to be a tough inning for us to get through,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I felt good with two outs, but it didn’t happen.”
The Phillies (36-47) began the evening with a quick 2-0 lead, scoring runs in the first and the fourth on RBI singles to center by Chase Utley and Domonic Brown.
But the Marlins (40-43) tied it in the fourth when Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single to center and then took the lead in the fifth when Giancarlo Stanton added to his National League lead with his 61st RBI.
Stanton smoked a single to center to score Christian Yelich and then scored himself to make it 4-2 when Marcell Ozuna struck out swinging, but the pitch got away from catcher Cameron Rupp. Ozuna, who would have been the third out of the inning, made it to first and Stanton scored easily from third.
All the while, Alvarez cruised along, scattering seven hits and getting out of trouble when he needed to. He walked one and struck out three on 97 pitches. He threw 70 strikes.
And like he usually does, he put his own signature touch on the game. He dodged a broken bat in the opening frame and then threw a runner out from his backside to open the seventh after slipping on the mound.
“I guess I’m just happy we get the outs on those plays,” Redmond said. “I’m glad he didn’t throw it from his back. I thought for a second he was going to fire it over there from his back. He at least sat up.”
Although Alvarez’s ERA grew by a hundredths of a point to 2.33, he still ranks fourth in the National League behind only the Reds’ Johnny Cuteto (1.88), Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright (2.01) and Dodgers’ Josh Beckett (2.11) despite his average 5-3 record.
In his past eight starts Alvarez had gone 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA, allowing just six earned runs in 53 1/3 innings while holding opponents scoreless four times.
Nobody in the majors — not even Clayton Kershaw (1.11 ERA), Beckett (1.15), Felix Hernandez (1.18) or Jake Arrieta (1.58) — has been that dominant over the stretch.
The rest of the Marlins rotation, meanwhile, has gone 6-13 with a 5.56 ERA in that time.
“Whether I get the win or not, it’s all about the team winning,” Alvarez said.