Henderson Alvarez finishes season with a miracle

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Probably like you, I didn't watch the beginning of the Marlins' last game of the season.

I was watching the Rays, and the Indians.

Probably like you, I watched the ending of the Marlins' last game of the season. And a good thing, too, because it was an ending that literally nobody, dead or alive, has ever seen before. Miami's Henderson Alvarez got a no-hitter when Detroit's Luke Putkonen unleased a bases-loaded wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning ... with Alvarez watching from the on-deck circle, 20 feet away. Just in case you missed it:

That moment largely speaks for itself, but I do have a couple of quick observations.

One, Alvarez hasn't pitched so wonderfully all season. He's struck out roughly five batters per nine innings, and in the long term it's difficult to make a living that way. Alvarez does have solid control, but even though he's only 23, his ceiling seems to be fairly low. One thing that does set Alvarez apart, though -- I mean, despite his singular no-hitter -- is this: In 102⅔  innings this season, he's given up only two home runs.

How few is two?

Alvarez is the first pitcher since 1992 to make at least a dozen starts and allow fewer than three home runs. And Alvarez started a lot more than a dozen games. He started 17 games. Since World War II, there have been 259 pitcher-seasons that included 17 starts. In 1980, J.R. Richard made 17 starts and gave up two homers. Otherwise, it's just Alvarez; nobody else since World War II has started 17 games and given up fewer than three homers.

Here's the really "funny" thing about all of that: Alvarez is not that sort of pitcher. Entering this season, he'd given up 37 home runs in 251 major-league innings. You're probably wondering if he's somehow become a different pitcher this year. He has not. His ground-ball and fly-ball rates are the same this year as before. Before this season, a bizarrely high number of the fly balls he allowed went over the fence. This season, a bizarrely low number of the fly balls he allowed went over the fence.

He's the same pitcher, with wildly different luck. It happens, though rarely so dramatically.

Speaking of drama, we just assumed this was the first no-hitter to end with a wild pitch. Within just a few minutes of that wild pitch, we had some proof: Only three no-hitters were clinched with any sort of walk-off event. Since 1916, at least. Here are the three lucky pitchers ...

Dick Fowler, Athletics (September 9, 1945)
Fowler had just been discharged from the Canadian army a couple of weeks earlier, and this was his first start since 1941. Fowler pitched nine hitless innings, but his St. Louis Browns counterpart, John Miller, gave up only three hits while pitching eight shutout innings. In the bottom of the ninth, though, Hal Peck led off with a triple and Irv Hall singled up the middle to seal the deal. (game)

Virgil Trucks, Tigers (May 15, 1952)
Trucks didn't get much help from his teammates, as second baseman Gerry Priddy made three errors and the whole squad collected only three hits in eight innings ... and one of those hits was Trucks' eighth-inning single, as Washington's Bob Porterfield was pitching a gem of his own. But with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Trucks got his no-hitter when Vic Wertz took Porterfield deep. While only 2,215 fans were in Tiger Stadium to see it, Wertz would later describe the pitch he hit as "waist high, where I'll always dream about it from now on."

Trucks' season would become one of the more bizarre in history, as he fired another no-hitter later in the season but went 5-19 overall (before bouncing back with a 20-10 campaign in 1953). (game)

Francisco Cordova & Ricardo Rincon, Pirates (July 12, 1997)
This wasn't technically a no-hitter for Cordova, but he did pitch nine no-hit innings. He also threw 121 pitches, so manager Gene Lamont replaced Cordova with Rincon in the 10th inning of the scoreless game. Rincon pitched a hitless 10th, pinch-hitter Mark Smith hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the inning, and Rincon would become immortalized in Moneyball. Cordova is forgotten outside of Pittsburgh (and Mexico). (game)

And so there you have it, folks: just another example of the wonders of a game that's ultimately ridiculous and unpredictable.

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