Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Finales Are Special


There is something special about watching finales.

They leave long lasting memories.

On September 29, 2013, I had an opportunity to cover the Miami Marlins final game of the season vs The Detroit Tigers. 

It was an unforgettable day as Henderson Alvarez threw the 282nd No-Hitter in MLB History in a 1-0 Marlins win.

Alvarez allowed three base runners on an error, a walk and a hit batter as the Marlins walked off in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch.

Alvarez became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the final game of the regular season since Mike Witt (California Angels) in 1984. 

Witt actually threw a perfect game on September 30, 1984 against the Texas Rangers..

Alvarez finished the season with a 5-6 record in 17 starts. 

Through 17 starts, Alvarez pitched 102.2 innings while allowing just two home runs. 

The previous season, he allowed 29 home runs.

He played for the Milwaukee Milkmen in 2020.

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, The Miami Marlins closed out the season vs the Philadelphia Phillies.

What memories would take place on this afternoon? 

The Marlins sent Pablo Lopez to the mound. 

He entered the game with a 5-5 record with a 3.03 ERA with 111 strike outs, 24 walks in 101 innings.

On Sunday, July 11, 2021, I covered Lopez Major League record as he struck out the first nine batters of the game vs the National League Champions, Atlanta Braves. 

Would Lopez be able to have another stellar performance?

Not on this day as the 25-year old right-handed hurler has been dealing with injuries this season and the Marlins are being very cautious as they prepare for the 2022 Season.

This turned out to be a fun afternoon as Marlins Manager Don Mattingly literally took the day off although he was available for the pre-game availability.

Who would take his place was another story in itself?

Shortstop and team captain Miguel Rojas was the acting manager. I asked him about how he would manage this game?

He told me, “that I will manage with analytics but use my instincts, gut feeling and that baseball is a chess game.”

Manager Rojas pulled Lopez after 1.2 innings, 42 pitches, four hits, four strikeouts and one walk. Of those 42 pitches, 29 were for strikes. 

More importantly, Lopez left with a 2-1 lead and was given a nice applause by the 9,149 fans. 

It was a very moving moment!

The similarity between the Tigers and Phillies games is they both ended with a one-run ending. The Marlins won both contests.

The Marlins topped the Phillies 5-4 to finish the season 67-95. 

Philadelphia dropped to 82-80 and the Phillies secured its first winning season since last reaching the playoffs in 2011.

Nick Fortes hit a tie breaking two-run home run in the fourth inning. Fortes sent a line drive off Hector Neris (4-7) into the Marlins bullpen in left for a 5-3 lead, his fourth home run since he was called up from AAA on September 17th.

Phillies superstar Bryce Harper doubled and walked before being replaced in the bottom of the third inning. A contender for NL MVP, he hit .309 with 35 homers, 84 RBIs and a major league-best 1.044 OPS. 

One of the best memories for myself was a nice exchange with Mattingly.

We have worked together for two years but most of our interaction has taken place via Zoom. 

I’m truly convinced he is the right manager for the job but the front office led by Derek Jeter and Kim Ng has to surround him with some talent. 

The Marlins closed their 11th losing season in 12 years.

That will be for another day but in the meantime. 

As the World Series is upon us and the baseball season is about to conclude, it’s never too late to celebrate the Great American Pastime. 

It’s also neat to hang out with your colleagues as we all get a chance to take the off-season to rest up and go at it again next year. Hopefully, there will be labor peace by the owners and the players as the collective bargaining agreement expires to avoid a lockout.

This season, we saw fans return to the stadiums and a full 162-game season with new records and milestones by future Hall of Fame Players.

By November, the off-season will begin and Spring Training starts in February.

To this day, the only no-hitter that I’ve ever seen in person was at loanDepotPark with Alvarez. 

While it would have been nice for Lopez to show brilliance on this day, just seeing him out there after battling injuries was good enough for me.

As for Mattingly, there is no other manager that I would rather work with at this stage of my career because he’s smart, very polite and he gives you a straight answer. 

That’s all we can ask for is true professionalism.

As I told the Marlins Communications Staff, Spring Training couldn’t come fast enough!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

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