The cliché beauty of baseball — the beauty that allows for anything to happen, against all odds and logic — was on full display at Marlins Park on Wednesday as the Miami Marlins turned near-infamy into a 2-1 victory, stunning the Washington Nationals and taking the series rubber match.
Getting no-hit into the eighth inning by rMax Scherzer, one of the best pitchers in the game? The Marlins remained hopeful, trailing by only one.
Sending backup catcher A.J. Ellis to the plate, with five outs to go? His bouncer up the middle, deflected by Scherzer and not fielded cleanly by shortstop Trea Turner, ended the right-hander's no-hit bid at 7 1/3 innings.
Using starting pitcher Jose Urena as a pinch-runner? He scored the game-tying run from third when Scherzer's 119th pitch of the day was a wild one, flung to the backstop.
Giancarlo Stanton singled to left, at 108.1 mph off the bat the hardest-hit ball of the game, to plate J.T. Realmuto for a Miami lead.
In a span of minutes, the Marlins went from heading toward history for the wrong reasons to bringing in closer AJ Ramos to set down the heart of Washington's order for a second dramatic comeback win against the Nationals in three games.
"I kind of went through both scenarios of him getting a no-hitter and him getting the loss," Stanton said. "All you need is a little blooper or a hit like Ellis got to get us started. It worked out for us."
Scherzer's dominance was obvious early. He struck out six hitters in the first two innings, the Marlins unable to even put a ball in play until their ninth batter — a comebacker from Dan Straily bounced to Scherzer.
Scherzer's pitch count early, however, climbed quickly. With a walk and a hit batsman mixed in, he needed 38 pitches in the first two innings.
But then Scherzer really settled in, retiring 18 in a row into the eighth. The Marlins managed only two batted balls to the outfield in that span, Stanton to end the third and Christian Yelich to start the fourth.
"It gets us started," manager Don Mattingly said. "There's certain guys you've just got to just say screw it, let's go. You've got to take him on."
Added Ellis: "Straight survival, battle mode right there."
The game-winning rally happened mostly with two outs. Realmuto reached when first baseman Adam Lind dropped a throw that would have ended the inning. Scherzer hit Dee Gordon with a slider to load the bases. The wild pitch scored Urena, who was running for Ellis, and Stanton's hit scored Realmuto. Nationals left fielder Ryan Raburn cut down Gordon at the plate to keep it a one-run game.
"We've got it tied at the point, and Max is at 118, 119, 120 [pitches]," Mattingly said. "So his stuff's got to be deteriorating a little bit."
Right-hander Dan Straily allowed three hits and a run in six innings. He also struck out six and walked one. The Nationals scored in the fifth inning, when Ryan Raburn launched a two-out home run to left field. He got a hold of a 1-0 changeup down and in for his first of the year.
"It's good to take two out of three right there," Straily said. "What is it, every win against a division leader counts as two really? So it's going to take a lot of wins against these guys to get back in this thing."