Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander pitches to the Miami Marlins in the first inning. Tigers lost in ninth inning.
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MIAMI — The Detroit Tigers are saving their hits for the playoffs.
With their postseason slot already decided as AL Central champions, the Tigers watched the other team do all the celebrating today, when Henderson Alvarez pitched a no-hitter and the Miami Marlins scored in the bottom of the ninth to win 1-0.
The only run scored when Luke Putkonen threw a wild pitch with two out and the bases loaded in the ninth. The Marlins mobbed Alvarez, who had been standing in the on-deck circle because he was due to bat next.
The Tigers played with a patchwork lineup but didn’t begrudge Alvarez or the Marlins for celebrating.
“It was exciting for them and it was very special for him, so you have to be happy for that, no matter what side you’re on,” Tigers infielder Hernan Perez said. “Any time a guy gets a no-hitter there should be a big celebration, and it’s great for the Marlins to end the season that way.”
The no-hitter was the first for the Marlins since Anibal Sanchez — now with the Tigers — threw one in 2006 against Arizona. Sanchez watched from the visitors’ dugout as fellow Venezuelan Alvarez celebrated the feat.
“It was great to be a part of such an exciting moment for this guy,” Sanchez said. “He threw a great game, and I’m really excited he did that.”
Detroit’s Justin Verlander struck out 10 in six scoreless innings in his final tuneup for the playoffs. The Tigers right-hander allowed only three hits — but three more than Alvarez.
“He threw a heck of a ballgame,” Verlander said. “To do something like that is pretty impressive.”
With the Tigers’ playoff slot settled, they rested four starters and had pulled three others by the seventh inning. Miguel Cabrera, who won his third consecutive batting title, never stepped to the plate.
The Tigers will start a division series at Oakland on Friday. Prior to the game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland acknowledged he and his players were already thinking ahead.
“I want to play this game, I want to win this game, but I want to get this over with and get home,” Leyland said. “Guys are anxious. They want to get to the postseason.”
Alvarez made the Tigers’ eagerness work to his advantage.
“He had a lot of movement, and he fed off the fact they were swinging aggressively,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
Alvarez (5-6) struck out four, walked one and hit a batter. When he closed out the top of the ninth, he pumped one fist and then both, thinking the game was over.
He remained confused until he got to the dugout and a teammate explained the situation to him.
“With the emotion and nerves, I didn’t realize we hadn’t scored a run yet,” a sheepish Alvarez said through a translator. “At the time I thought the game was 1-0. I threw my hands up and thought the game was over.”
Twice the Tigers were robbed of hits by fine defensive plays, including Alvarez’s leaping snare of Don Kelly’s one-hopper before he threw to first for the second out in the ninth.
Alvarez struck out Matt Tuiasosopo on a 3-2 pitch — his 99th — to end the top of the ninth. Then he needed the help from the Marlins’ offense, which is last in the majors in runs.
Stanton singled with one out in the bottom of the ninth against Putkonen (1-3) and took second on a single by Logan Morrison. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, and they held as Adeiny Hechavarria grounded out to the shortstop.
After Chris Coghlan walked to load the bases, Putkonen’s first pitch to pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs was a low inside breaking ball that escaped catcher Brayan Pena. Stanton scored standing up with his arms raised, and the Marlins mobbed Alvarez.
The Tigers came close to a hit several times. Shortstop Hechavarria caught Ramon Santiago’s liner in the third with an acrobatic leap. Verlander, who is 0 for 27 lifetime, hit a drive to right field that landed foul by a couple of feet in the sixth inning.
“You need to have a little luck to throw a no-hitter,” Redmond said, “and we definitely had that today.”
Alvarez hit Prince Fielder in the back with a breaking pitch with two out in the first inning, then retired 12 batters in a row before Jose Iglesias reached on an error by Hechavarria in the fifth.
Alvarez retired another 12 in a row before he walked Andy Dirks on four pitches with two out in the ninth.
“He was tough out there,” Detroit’s Omar Infante said. “It was tough for us because we were seeing him for the first time, and with him pitching like that we really couldn’t do much today.”
The last time the Tigers were no-hit was July 26, 2010, when Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza beat them 5-0.
Doug Fister, part of Detroit’s playoff rotation, pitched a scoreless seventh. Rick Porcello, a starter moved to the bullpen for the playoffs, followed with a perfect eighth.
NOTES: Tigers pitchers had 13 strikeouts and finished with 1,428 this season, a major league record.