Patrick Reusse
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The Rittenhouse in Philadelphia is promoted as being a five-star hotel. The rooms shown in advertising images appear as if they would be a nice place for a return, after a day on the town, or a night at the ballpark.

That outlook seems to change when you are there for a week with orders not to leave the room.

“We were allowed to go downstairs to get food, which wasn’t that good,” Miami Marlins pitcher Brandon Kintzler said. “That was it. I was going crazy by the third day. The windows were bolted shut, so you couldn’t get any fresh air.

“We couldn’t work out. I would check to see if the hallway was empty and run some sprints.”

Kintzler signed with the Marlins in January, his third National League team since being traded by the Twins to Washington on July 31, 2017. Earlier that month, Kintzler was an all-time great underdog story as he pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the All-Star Game.

This was a pitcher who spent the winter of 2008-09 giving pitching lessons in a freezing tunnel at the Winnipeg Goldeyes stadium, to make a few bucks and to be near girlfriend and now wife Melissa.

“When I was in there with a space heater in that tunnel working with Little Leaguers, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d now be pitching my 11th year in the big leagues,” said Kintzler, now 36.

The Kintzler tale is no more amazing than that of the 2020 Marlins, ignored in South Florida as more an embarrassment than an asset, 57-105 in 2019 and expected to be buried again in the NL East behind Washington’s defending champs, the potent Braves, the big-spending Phillies and even the Mets.

And then came true vilification: Major League Baseball was trying to play its mini-season in 30 ballparks, not in a virus-fighting “bubble,” and here came a COVID-19 outbreak with those allegedly rambunctious Marlins three days into the schedule.

“When we left Miami [in July], we packed for a five-day trip — two exhibitions in Atlanta, then an opening series in Philadelphia,” Kintzler said. “We wound up being gone for 23 days.

“All the stories were, ‘The Marlins went out, they brought this on themselves.’ We didn’t do anything wrong. If we had players ‘going out,’ why did we have no positive tests in three weeks of workouts in Miami?”

Whatever caused the outbreak, there were 17 positive tests for players and staff, and the Marlins had to stay sequestered in their Philly hotel starting on July 26, not leaving until Aug. 2 for Baltimore.

Somehow, they responded to the eight-day layoff with a four-game sweep over three days in Baltimore, with Kintzler pitching on each of those days.

“The only throwing I did for that week in Philadelphia was across the hotel room into a mattress that I put up against the wall,” he said. “[Manager] Don Mattingly asked if I was good to go on the third day. I said, ‘Always.’

“I signed late, but not because the Marlins were the only offer to be had. I was impressed that they were talking about winning, not rebuilding. And once I saw the young arms, young talent in spring training, I knew that wasn’t just PR.”

Kintzler feels that James Rowson — a Twins coach in 2017 and a first-year bench coach in Miami — gave him an endorsement as worth the $3.25 million to be a closer and assist in that notion of winning.

The Marlins’ 7-3 start after the return to action was a cute story, and all outsiders waited for the collapse. Five losses in a row in mid-August seemed to be it, but the Marlins rallied and stayed around .500 and in the NL East hogpile behind the runaway Braves.

The Marlins had a stretch of 14 games from Sept. 11 to Sept. 20, went 8-6 and wound up second in the division and as the NL’s sixth seed. They then finished off the Cubs in two games in a first-round series in Wrigley Field.

The shot for the Marlins to be the mini-season version of the Miracle Mets (51 years later) now seems to be coming to an end. Miami was shut out by the Braves 2-0 in Houston on Wednesday and is down 2-0 in the best-of-five division series.

Kintzler was on the phone Tuesday night and said:

“My wife and two kids get to come to the games, but they are in a different hotel way outside of Houston and we can’t be in contact. Our daughter, Stevie, is 3 and she’s changed a lot since we were last together.

“All I can do is blow kisses to her and my son, Knox, up there in the stands. We’ve gone through a lot as a team to get to this point, but for me, the toughest part has been not being able to give my kids a hug.”

Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing sports@startribune.com and including his name in the subject line.