ST. LOUIS (AP) — Not long after Jose Fernandez was lost for the season with an elbow injury, the Miami Marlins found a new ace.
They’ve won a franchise-record 10 in a row when Henderson Alvarez takes the ball.
“He’s been really good for us, especially since Jose went down,” cleanup hitter Casey McGehee said Sunday after Alvarez (6-3) worked seven stingy innings and started the key rally with the first of his career-best three hits in an 8-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“He pretty much did today what he’s done all year for us. We love having him out on the mound.”
McGehee extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with an RBI single in the first. Marcell Ozuna had a two-run single in a three-run sixth that made it 4-0, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s three-run homer off Jason Motte put Miami up 8-1 in the eighth.
The Marlins had lost four of six before taking two of three from their spring training partners. The first two games of the series were decided by one run.
“This group is special,” manager Mike Redmond said. “We’ve bounced back all year.”
The Marlins easily took the series finale despite stranding 14 runners, largely because of Alvarez. He’s 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA since May 16, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his last nine games.
“I’ve always wanted to be a leader,” the 24-year-old right-hander said through a translator. “I’m just focused on being a pitcher.”
Kolten Wong, just off the 15-day disabled list, had two hits and homered in the seventh for the lone run against Alvarez. Matt Adams had a career-best four hits, including an RBI double.
“All we can do is stick with our approach and go up there and get the barrel on the balls, and that’s what we’re doing,” Adams said. “We’re just hitting it right at people right now.”
Cardinals rookie Marco Gonzalez (0-2) allowed a run in 4 2-3 innings despite giving up seven hits and walking five in his third career start since being recalled from Double-A Springfield. He yielded five runs in each of his first two starts.
“You look at the bottom line, obviously it wasn’t as efficient as he wanted to be and we had to get him out early,” manager Mike Matheny said. “He kept us in there and made good pitches when he had to.”
Alvarez struck out to end the second and then had a hit in three consecutive at-bats, the biggest a leadoff bloop single in the sixth. He topped his previous best of two hits, done twice, and raised his average this season to .250.
Obviously, that’s a bonus.
“I’m glad he’s on our side, especially since he’s been lights out,” Redmond said. “I think we all feel so confident when he takes the ball.”
The three-day weekend series drew 133,736 fans, with the first two games sold out and the finale just shy at 42,160. It was 84 degrees at game time and temperatures were unseasonably mild throughout.
Redmond, a former catcher, remembers St. Louis and Kansas City as the hottest cities in the majors, with triple-digit temperatures this time of year and “just roasting out there.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Matheny said before the finale. “Yesterday, I didn’t realize it during the game but it was a beautiful day.”
NOTES: The Marlins’ previous franchise mark for consecutive wins in a pitcher’s starts was nine straight for Chris Hammond in 1993. Hammond was 8-0 during that stretch. ... Jim Edmonds threw out the first pitch, firing a high fastball to Matheny, on his bobblehead giveaway day. ... McGehee has hit in 20 straight games on the road, the second-longest streak in Marlins history behind a 27-game run by Luis Castillo in 2002. ... The Marlins open a three-game series at Arizona on Monday with Tom Koehler (6-6, 3.48 ERA), back from paternity leave, opposing Chase Anderson (5-4, 3.91). ... Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright (11-4, 1.89 ERA) was tied for the league lead in wins heading into a matchup against the Pirates and Charlie Morton (5-9, 3.30). Wainwright is 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this year. ... Matheny said closer Trevor Rosenthal was unavailable after tough outings in the first two games of the series. ... Motte missed last year due to reconstructive elbow surgery and allowed four runs for the first time since Sept. 22, 2011, at the Mets.