Tuesday night, the Marlins were eliminated from playoff contention, despite defeating the Braves, because the Rockies won their game, putting the Wild Card out of reach. Fortunately for Marlins fans, Ricky Nolasco gave us a reason to stay tuned for the final few games of the season.
Wednesday night, Nolasco struck out a career and franchise record 16 batters, including nine consecutive at one point, in 7.2 innings of work. He gave up two runs, both unearned. The 16 fanned batters was the highest in the MLB this season, and the most since Johan Santana was with the Twins and K'd 17 in August of 2007.
It's great to see Nolasco end his season on a high-note, after being demoted earlier in the season after some struggles. But on the other hand, it would have been nice for him to perform like this when the playoffs were on the line. I don't want to get into that right now, though. Instead, I would like to tip my cap to Nolasco, who certainly had a career night while notching his 13th win of the season.
It was quite a way to finish the year for Nolasco, who started on opening day for the Marlins this season, and recorded wins on the bookends of his season, despite a speed bump at the end of May. Nolasco again proved what an asset he can be to this team when he is firing on all cylinders, and that he has the potential to be an ace on this pitching staff with Josh Johnson.
Hopefully, he will be able to carry any type of momentum he got from tonight into next season, because starting pitching has been a concern for the Marlins all season. Outside of Johnson, no Marlins starter has been very reliable throughout the year.
Speaking of concerns for the Marlins, Leo Nunez nearly blew another game after allowing two runs in the ninth, before being relieved for Brendan Donnelly who recorded the save. Nunez's failure on the mound nearly cost Nolasco a decision, and the closer role is something the Marlins will definitely need to assess this offseason, because Nunez is not the answer.
In other statistical anomaly news, Donnelly's save tonight was quite the feat, as well. He recorded the save, despite throwing only one pitch: a ball, that happened to get away from catcher Ronnie Paulino. Paulino lost the ball momentarily, then gathered it, gunned it to third base where Matt Diaz was tagged out to end the game 5-4.
The loss eliminated the Braves from a shot at the NL East crown, which is something the Marlins can take solace in. Similar to playing spoiler to the Mets playoff aspirations last season, the Fish are doing their best to keep the Braves out of the postseason. So once again, hats off to you, Ricky Nolasco, for your workhorse performance to end the year.