Pablo Lopez’s final pitch of the season, a 96.1 mph four-seam fastball, whizzed near the top of the strike zone, just close enough for Andrew McCutchen to chase for an inning-ending strikeout. Lopez spun around on the mound, clapped his fist into his glove and made his way back to the Miami Marlins’ dugout, where he was greeted by an round of applause from ace Sandy Alcantara and hugs from a slew of his teammates.
For the first time in his MLB career, Lopez made each of his scheduled starts in a non-shortened season — a goal of his since the start of spring training.
His 32nd and final outing of the 2022 season was one of his best.
Lopez threw seven shutout innings in the Marlins’ 4-3, 12-inning win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday at American Family Field. The Marlins (67-92) won three of four games against the Brewers (84-75) to put Milwaukee’s playoff hopes on life support with three games left in the regular season.
Miguel Rojas hit a go-ahead, two-out RBI single in the top of the 12th and Tanner Scott pitched a scoreless bottom half of the inning for his 20th save of the season.
“We’re playing hard,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You’re proud as a manager that they continue to play hard through the end of the year.”
It salvaged Lopez’s dominant finale.
The 26-year-old righty did not allow a hit Sunday until the fifth inning and only had two runners reach scoring position — both with two outs. He struck out seven while allowing just two hits and walking three.
For the season as a whole, Lopez finished with a 3.75 ERA over 180 innings with 174 strikeouts against 53 walks, a .234 batting average against and a 1.17 walks and hits per inning pitched mark — the latter two marks both below his career averages (.242 average, 1.19 WHIP).
Over his final four starts — games against the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Brewers — Lopez pitched to a 2.05 ERA (six earned runs over 26 1/3 innings), while pitching at least six innings in all four games.
“I wish we had more games coming,” Lopez, who missed time in the second half of each of the last three full seasons (2018, 2019, 2021), said with a laugh. “The way that I’ve been feeling the last four games, it’s the best I’ve felt. I’m in a great spot, perhaps even better than I was earlier in the season. ... It was the best way to finish.”
His teammates on Sunday — and this week, really — echoed the resiliency that Lopez showcased this season.
The Marlins’ aren’t in the playoff race anymore and haven’t been for a while, but their nine games of the season all involved playoff implications. They split a two-game road series against the New York Mets, who are competing with the Atlanta Braves for the NL East title and a first-round bye in the playoffs, before taking three of four against the Brewers, who entered the series competing with the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League’s third wild card spot but are now one loss or one Philadelphia win away from being eliminated.
Miami closes the season with a three-game home series against the Braves.
“Pretty nice to see the team not just giving up and saying ‘OK, we are a week away from the season being over with’ and just checking out,” Rojas said. “You always want to see that from the guys. ... It’s nice to play in late September and October with teams that are in it. It gives you an understanding or perspective of where you are.”
Miami scored its first two runs on Sunday in the seventh inning. Peyton Burdick’s pinch-hit RBI single scored Avisail Garcia, who led off with a double and moved to third on a Bryan De La Cruz single. Jacob Stallings then added a sacrifice fly that scored De La Cruz.
The Brewers broke up the shutout with a Christian Yelich RBI groundout in the eighth against Richard Bleier to cut Miami’s lead to one run and tied the game on a Kolten Wong RBI double against Dylan Floro in the ninth to force extra innings.
Joey Wendle hit an RBI single in the top of the 10th and made a key throw home in the bottom half of the inning to allow Stallings to tag out Luis Urias, limit the Brewers to just one run in the inning overall and extend the game.
After Miami came up empty in the top of the 11th, Huascar Brazoban worked out of a bases-loaded, one-run jam by striking out Urias on a full count and getting Tyrone Taylor to ground into an inning-ending fielder’s choice to set up the Marlins’ final rally in the 12th.