MIAMI – Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon knows exactly how good starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez can be at Marlins Park.
In the final game of last season, McClendon sat in the same dugout he was sitting in Saturday night as the hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers. He watched as Alvarez used his mid-90s fastball, hard slider and power changeup to throw a no-hitter against his team.
At least this time, McClendon got to see his team get a hit. Alvarez dominated the Mariners over nine innings, giving up just two hits and striking out four in a 7-0 shutout.
“His stuff was exceptional tonight,” McClendon said. “He had plenty of movement and he was pounding the zone.”
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Dustin Ackley broke up Alvarez’s perfect-game bid in the sixth inning, but Seattle has still lost five straight going into Sunday’s series finale and is 7-10 overall.
“We are one ground ball away from having a decent road trip to this point,” McClendon said, referring to the walk-off loss to Texas on Wednesday. “I’m not going to blow things out of proportion at this point. For me, that’s silly stuff. This is a tough stretch for us, but guess what? Everybody in baseball goes through tough stretches. We just happen to be having ours now.”
Not many teams would have beaten Alvarez on Saturday night. He was sharp and efficient. He got Seattle hitters to pound the ball into the ground in at-bat after at-bat. He registered 17 ground-ball outs and needed just 90 pitches.
“You have to tip your hat, he had a great day,” said Mariners catcher Mike Zunino.
Alvarez was perfect through five innings, with the only hard-hit ball being a line out to right field from Abraham Almonte in the fourth inning.
Ackley led off the sixth inning with a sharp line-drive single. But he was quickly erased on the base paths when Zunino grounded into a 5-4-3 double play.
Zunino came up with a double in the ninth inning for the Mariners’ other hit.
And that was it. The Mariners had nothing else. Alvarez faced one batter over the minimum.
Roenis Elias gave the Mariners a serviceable start, despite some command issues. Elias, a native of Cuba, was excited to pitch in Miami, so close to his native country. He had several friends and relatives watching.
But he wasn’t as sharp as in past outings. He had just one clean inning — the fifth. The Marlins picked up a run in the third inning on Casey McGehee’s RBI single. They added another in the fourth on a passed ball when Zunino had a fastball bounce off his glove and roll to the backstop, allowing a run to score.
Still, the Mariners trailed just 2-0 going into the sixth inning, which gave them a chance. But it fell apart there.
Alvarez came up with a two-out, broken-bat bloop single to left field to score a run off Elias to make it 3-0. Elias was visibly upset on the mound.
“A pitcher should never get a hit off me,” he said through translator Danny Farquhar. “He’s not a professional hitter, so he shouldn’t get a hit.
Elias then walked Christian Yelich and left a fastball up that Marcell Ozuna hit over the fence for a three-run homer to make it 6-0.
“It was a high fastball and I was trying to go in on him and left it over the middle,” Elias said.
That was the end of Elias’ start. Admittedly, McClendon might have replaced him sooner had the bullpen not been so taxed.
“It was unfortunate that we tried to push him a little because of where we are with our bullpen,” McClendon said. “If you really think about it, he was one out — the pitcher — from having a fantastic outing, so it’s a shame that ended up like it did.”
But it wouldn’t have mattered with the way Alvarez was dealing.
“When you run into a guy that’s got three or four pitches working and he’s a power pitcher, it’s going to be tough,” McClendon said. “I don’t care who you are, it’s probably going to be a long night.”
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