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Hill proud to be behind plate for Alvarez

Hill proud to be behind plate for Alvarez

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Hill proud to be behind plate for Alvarez

MIAMI -- The energy and enthusiasm Henderson Alvarez displays makes the Marlins right-hander fun to watch and enjoyable to catch.

Koyie Hill had the assignment of being behind the plate in what turned into a historic Sunday afternoon on the regular season's final day.

In a season of so many lows, the Marlins celebrated one of the ultimate highs for a pitcher. Alvarez recorded the fifth no-hitter in Marlins' history, blanking the Tigers, 1-0, in front of 28,314 at Marlins Park.

Henderson Alvarez
Go wild! History for Alvarez

Hill, a 34-year-old journeyman with 331 games of Major League experience under his facemask, caught his first no-hitter at the game's highest level.

"We were on the same page with a lot of things," Hill said. "I really enjoy catching him. To be candid, he is one of my favorites on the staff to catch. I like his energy, his personality. He's going to be a good one."

A Venezuelan native, the 23-year-old Alvarez missed most of the first half due to right shoulder inflammation. He made his first start on July 4 and finished with the first no-hitter on final day of the regular season since Mike Witt of the Angels beat the Rangers in 1984.

Hill spent most of the season at Triple-A New Orleans, and he was in the lineup on Sunday because Jeff Mathis was resting a fracture to the tip of his right thumb.

Miami actually signed Hill to a Minor League contract late in Spring Training. He was hopeful of being the Opening Day backup, but the team ended up signing Miguel Olivo. The Marlins called Hill up on Aug. 9. In his career, he's been an Opening Day catcher. Now, he has the distinction of catching a big league no-hitter.

The irony is Mathis was unavailable because he fractured his thumb while attempting to block a wild pitch thrown by Alvarez on Sept. 9 at home against the Braves.

In the season finale, Alvarez was making quick work of the Tigers, who were resting some of their key players, like Miguel Cabrera, as they prepare for the American League playoffs. Still, the Tigers were looking to stay sharp, but they now head into the postseason having been swept in three games at Miami.

"Obviously, we know coming in that guys are going to be resting and we're not playing at full strength," Tigers starter Justin Verlander said. "Our starting pitching wasn't going to go out and grind 120 pitches. We're just kind of preparing ourselves for the postseason. You never want to get no-hit, but if you're going to, I guess now's the time to do it, because it's a game where we're just trying to get prepared and get ready for the postseason."

A difference for Alvarez on Sunday was he avoided the one rough inning that had plagued him of late. In his previous two starts, for instance, he gave up multiple runs in the first inning.

At Washington on Sept. 19, he allowed three runs in the first inning, and he was tagged for two runs on Sept. 24 against the Phillies.

"The last couple of times I've had him, there usually is an inning that doesn't go the way he wanted it to," Hill said. "I know his last two outings, he gave up three runs in the first and two runs in the first, and it ended up hurting him.

"Today, he never had that inning. He never had that inning to get over a hill. His fastball was down. He was ahead in the count. He just had electric stuff. He's going to be as good as he wants to be on any given day."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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