Nearly one year to the day after Henderson Alvarez applied an exclamation point to the 2013 season by tossing a no-hitter on closing day for the Marlins, the script was reversed.
The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman no-hit the Marlins as Washington handed the Marlins a 1-0 loss on closing day in 2014.
Steven Souza Jr. made a diving catch in left center on Christian Yelich’s long fly ball, bringing a dramatic end to the first no-hitter in Nationals history.
“I was just running because I thought it was going to be in the gap,” Yelich said. “Then I heard the crowd go crazy and that’s when I knew that it was bad news for the Fish. He made a helluva play.”
It marked only the third time the Marlins have been no-hit.
Ramon Martinez of the Dodgers in 1995 and Roy Halladay of the Phillies in 2010 also no-hit the Marlins. Halladay’s gem was a perfect game.
Though the Marlins hit several balls hard, they were all turned into outs.
“We hit some balls hard today. They just found some people,” Yelich said. “That’s kind of what you need to have a no-hitter happen. He’s a great pitcher with great stuff.”
Alvarez was back on the mound for the Marlins on Sunday just as he was for them on Sept.29 of last season when he no-hit the Detroit Tigers. The Marlins won that game 1-0 on a wild pitch in the ninth inning.
But it wasn’t Alvarez who had no-hit stuff on Sunday. It was Zimmermann.
“I had a vision of that [a no-hitter],” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “But it was of Henderson doing it again, not against us.”
As is typical of closing day games, when everyone wants to go home for the offseason, hitters were swinging early and often, and Zimmerman polished off the Marlins in two hours and one minute, making it the fastest game of the season for the Marlins.
He retired the first 14 batters he faced before Justin Bour reached on a two-out walk in the fifth. Garrett Jones was the only other Marlin to reach base, doing so when he struck out but the ball got past catcher Wilson Ramos for a wild pitch.
In the fifth, the Marlins lined out sharply three times to Nationals infielders.
“We hit some line drives,” Redmond said. “Reed [Johnson] hit a bullet. Jones hit a bullet. We hit some balls hard. But I’ve seen a few no-hitters and that’s kind of how they roll.”
In the ninth, Adeiny Hechavarria grounded out to second and pinch-hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia flied out to center, bringing up Yelich with two outs and the no-hitter on the line.
“That was my fourth time facing him, so I had a pretty good idea what he was doing and what kind of stuff he had,” Yelich said. “I put a good swing on the ball and the guy [Souza] made a helluva play.”
Souza made the diving catch in front of the Marlins bullpen.
“Right off the bat, you’re hoping for the base hit,” said Marlins reliever Mike Dunn, who had a birds-eye view of the climactic play. “We were all cheering. And then, as he was getting closer and closer and the ball was hanging up and he caught it, everyone was, ‘Really? Did that just happen?’”
Said Yelich: “In the moment right there, with that on the line, that might have been one of the best plays I’ve ever seen — ever.”
The crowd of 35,085 at Nationals Park erupted.
“It was just his day,” said Alvarez of his mound opponent.
Alvarez didn’t come close to matching his season-ending no-hit performance last year. He gave up 11 hits, including a solo homer to Ian Desmond in the second inning that accounted for all the scoring.
Zimmermann even chipped in at the plate with two singles.
With the loss, the Marlins finished the season with a record of 77-85, a 15-win improvement over 2013.
“A year ago, we were on the other side celebrating Henderson’s no-hitter,” Yelich said.
Said Johnson: “It’s kind of weird that Alvarez throws his the last day of the season last year, and he’s pitching again and it’s the other guy who does it.”