MIAMI -- In the top of the ninth inning on Saturday, competing “Let’s go Marlins” and “Let’s go Dodgers” chants echoed across loanDepot park. Los Angeles had the bases loaded with two outs against Miami ace Sandy Alcantara, who was vying for his fourth complete game of the season in front of a crowd of 23,543 fans.
Alcantara, who took the mound looking to prove that he was officially over the hump after allowing a season-high six runs to the Dodgers in Los Angeles his prior start, did what he has proven capable of time and time again this season. He delivered.
The right-hander induced a ground ball to first baseman Lewin Díaz, who made a nice play and tossed the ball to Alcantara covering first. Alcantara beat Joey Gallo to the bag for the final out, putting a stamp on his fourth complete game of 2022 as the Marlins snagged the 2-1 win for their ace, who remains the frontrunner in the National League Cy Young conversation.
Aside from a blip in the third inning, when Alcantara allowed a solo homer to Mookie Betts, and that trouble in the top of the ninth, fans were treated to none other than classic Sandy. Alcantara struck out 10 over nine innings, marking his fifth double-digit strikeout game. By delivering eight innings of scoreless baseball, and allowing just the one run on six hits in nine innings, Alcantara became the first player to throw four complete games in one season since Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana threw five each in 2017.
“Seeing what Sandy's doing,” catcher Jacob Stallings said, “it's really kind of like an honor to be a part of what he's doing. You haven't seen somebody do what he's doing right now, and I don't know how many years, but complete games, throwing deep into games, getting strikeouts, getting early-count outs, it's just special what he's doing and it's just fun to be a part of, for sure.”
It comes as no surprise to anyone who witnesses Alcantara’s stuff that he’s having such an outstanding season. When his teammates come to the ballpark on “Sandy Days,” they know they’ve got a very good chance to win. That comes from not only Alcantara’s ability to throw deep into games, but also his understanding of his arsenal and his ability to change on the fly.
In his prior outing, on Sunday in L.A., Alcantara and Stallings noticed the Dodgers taking advantage of his four-seam fastball. So, the batterymates changed their game plan. On Saturday in Miami, they went with more sliders and changeups, capitalizing on Alcantara’s dynamic offspeed pitches to keep the Dodgers on their toes while avoiding serving up meatballs, which are admittedly rare from Alcantara.
Instead of throwing his slider and changeup 22.3 percent and 26.5 percent of the time (respectively), as is customary, Alcantara threw the two offspeed offerings for a combined 66 percent of his pitches on Saturday. And they worked. The one time Alcantara missed a pitch was that third-inning homer from Betts, a 91.8 mph slider that Alcantara was trying to land outside but that ended up in the middle of the zone.
After that, Alcantara struck Betts out with his slider in each of Betts’ next two at-bats.
“Everybody wants to have your rematch,” Alcantara said. “I just wanted to strike him out, because he was hitting really good [off] me.”
“I think we could have probably done some things better here or there,” Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner said. “But he’s really good for a reason. He’s electric. He was sitting 99 for basically the whole game. … He’s got good stuff -- three pitches, four pitches with two fastballs. You’ve got to tip your cap.”
Turner was right -- all four of Alcantara’s pitches averaged between 91.5 mph and 98.8 mph, with his two fastballs at the upper end of the zone and the two breaking pitches at the lower end. His four-seamer, which he only threw 20 times out of his 111 pitches Saturday, topped out at 100.7 mph.
But again, that’s just Sandy.
“Unbelievable,” said right fielder Brian Anderson, who delivered the first of the Marlins’ two RBIs before he was ejected for arguing an out call. “He's the best that I've seen do it. It's fantastic to be able to play for him every fifth day. It's an honor to go out there and see what he can do. And games like today, you feel like he can do it every single outing.”