Gordon wins NL batting title, but Phils beat Marlins
By Todd Zolecki and Joe Frisaro
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies and Marlins finished their seasons Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park without any postseason berths on the line, but with enough intrigue to make things interesting.
The Marlins' Dee Gordon wrapped up the National League batting title, while the Phillies avoided their first 100-loss season since 1961 with a 7-2 victory. Oh, Ichiro Suzuki also made his first appearance as a pitcher, allowing two hits and one run in the eighth inning.
"It feels kind of surreal," said Gordon, who was 3-for-4 and finished with a .333 batting average. "It don't think it hit me yet. But it was an amazing feeling when I walked up the stairs and my teammates were ready and congratulated me."
"We fought, grinded and clawed," Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "People can probably laugh and say, well, you still lost 99 games, but at the same time we made it our goal. We didn't want to lose 100. I thought we played really well here at the end of the season."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Dee-livers a batting title: Gordon came into Sunday pursuing a batting title. The All-Star second baseman delivered that and more. The speedster was a triple shy of the cycle, a feat no Marlin has ever accomplished. Gordon doubled in his first at-bat, and in the third inning he homered. In the fifth inning, he singled. But with runners on first and second in the seventh inning, he struck out against Luis Garcia. Gordon entered the day pretty much deadlocked for the National League batting title. Washington's Bryce Harper was at .3307, with Gordon at .3306. Gordon becomes the first player to lead the NL in batting average and the Majors in steals (58) since Jackie Robinson (.342/37) in 1949.
Jose Altuve accomplished the feat in the American League in 2014 when he hit .341 with 225 hits and 56 stolen bases.
"It's an accumulation of his hard work," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "Just to watch him evolve as a hitter, as a player, and to go above the 200-hit mark. And then to come out today, knowing that he's in a batting race, and make a statement right out of the gate -- his first three at-bats. That truly speaks to who Gordon is." More >
Altherr comes up big: One of the Phillies' brightest spots in the second half of the season was Altherr, who showed a good bat, glove and speed. He doubled to score the game-tying run in the fifth inning and tripled to clear the bases and hand the Phillies a 6-2 lead in the seventh. He will get a good look next season as a Phillies outfielder.
"We got a young team so it's going to take a little while to get a little comfortable," Altherr said. "But we made a lot of good strides, I think. I think it's definitely an exciting team to look forward to in the future." More >
Buchanan finishes strong: Buchanan had a rough year, but he carries some positive momentum into the offseason. He allowed one earned run in 6 2/3 innings on Sunday to finish with a 2.01 ERA (five earned runs in 22 1/3 innings) in his final four starts. He posted a 9.11 ERA in his first 11.
"The fact that I finished strong, hopefully I left a good taste in their mouth and I'm looking forward to the offseason, continuing to work and going to Spring Training and compete for a job," Buchanan said.
Conley closes out on a high: Call it a wrap for Marlins rookie left-hander Adam Conley, who impressed in the final weeks. The 25-year-old, who will factor into the rotation mix next year, yielded two runs on six hits with two strikeouts in his final appearance. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter with the score tied at 2 in the seventh. Conley recorded his fourth straight quality start to close out the year. In those four starts, the lefty's ERA is 1.80.
"I thought if Franco hits his 15th homer against Ichiro that does not count." -- Francoeur, who promised to buy Maikel Franco a suit if he hit 15 home runs this season. Franco was in the on-deck circle when Suzuki recorded his final out in the eighth. Francoeur said afterward he will buy Franco a suit anyway.
"This season gave us the opportunity to see a lot of the young players, and gave them a chance to come in and either pitch or play. There were some questions we might have had with some position players, I think they answered those. So now, as we move forward, we can look to maybe add a pitcher or two here. This team is close. I think a lot of those questions were answered. Most importantly, they proved it to themselves." -- Jennings, on the core of the Marlins growing together.
ICHIRO ON THE MOUND
Ichiro, the 41-year-old wonder, has appeared in 2,357 MLB games. The iconic outfielder has 2,935 MLB hits. You can now chalk up one inning pitch to Ichiro's long list of accomplishments. With the Phillies in command, 6-2, Ichiro pitched the bottom of the eighth. He gave up one run on two doubles, to Odubel Herrera -- leading off the inning -- and Darnell Sweeney for an RBI. Ichiro faced five batters, and his fastball was as high as 87 mph. More >
YELICH FINISHES AT .300
After collecting eight hits in Saturday's doubleheader, Christian Yelich's batting average rose to .302. Jennings made sure the 23-year-old's average didn't dip below the .300 mark. So after grounding out to second in his second at-bat, lowering his average to .300, Yelich was replaced in the outfield by Ichiro. Yelich is a player the Marlins feel can someday compete for a batting title, finishing the year for the first time at .300 (143-for-476).