Shy of CG, dominant Alcantara settles for W

Right-hander allows an unearned run over 8 innings to help Marlins snap skid

June 6th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- It’s no secret that Marlins ace wants to go nine innings every time out. Manager Don Mattingly knows it. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. knows it. Everyone in the Marlins’ organization knows it.

Though Alcantara didn’t get his third career complete game on Sunday afternoon, he went a season-high-tying eight innings to help the Marlins snap an eight-game skid in a 3-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park. , the National League's RBI leader with 44, provided all the run support Alcantara would need on his 12th homer of the season in the second and a sacrifice fly during the go-ahead two-run sixth.

“Most of the time, he's a guy who always talks about wanting to go nine every time out,” Mattingly said. “Obviously we're not going to let him go to a crazy pitch count, or get himself in a bad situation. Him being able to step up for the team in that scenario, and for the club, to give us eight innings, only use one guy out of the 'pen, even though we had to get a couple more outs, [was huge].

“It is a chance for Sandy to have that feeling. Guys come into the Minor Leagues nowadays -- they don't ever finish a game. Most of the time, they probably don't pitch past the fifth or the sixth. They've got them on pitch counts, and they don't experience what pitching tired is, and they don't experience what pitching late in the game is. So it's something that you really have to learn to do. Guys that learn to pitch tired, use their stuff, figure out that they can get people out without feeling great all the time.”

Alcantara entered the eighth inning at 88 pitches, poised to face the top of Pittsburgh's order for the fourth time. Adam Frazier led off with a double that Starling Marte couldn’t track down in the left-center gap. It had a 28 percent hit probability. Righty Dylan Floro and lefty Richard Bleier began warming up following the knock. Alcantara then struck out talented rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes on his 100th pitch to conclude a nine-pitch battle.

When Frazier advanced to third on a groundout, Mattingly stood on the dugout steps while speaking to Stottlemyre. He allowed his starter to face the left-handed-hitting Colin Moran, who grounded out to Alcantara to end the threat.

“I don't get too much pressure from when the hitters get on base,” Alcantara said. “I just think I've got to make my best pitch, and I know Donnie believes in me, Mel too, and they know I've got pitches to get an out. I was really focused on throwing a great pitch and get a ground ball, maybe a fly ball. You guys see it. I got out of the inning, and I did it.”

The 25-year-old Alcantara finished with 103 pitches, never throwing more than 20 in an inning. His pitch count remained in a good spot thanks to a lot of early swings during the early part of the game.

Mattingly thought the Sandy battery of Alcantara and León mixed his five-pitch arsenal well, in particular his offspeed offerings. Alcantara recorded 12 groundouts, including two double plays, and three flyouts. He was charged with just an unearned run in the first.

“He had a really good changeup,” said Moran, who collected an RBI double on Alcantara’s curveball. “It’s tough to cover that much mph -- he’s got 99 [mph] that can be at the top of the zone, and then a changeup that’s kinda looking like it could be a fastball down and falls out of the zone. So he had some good stuff. He was locating and pounding the zone.”

The first time Alcantara spoke to the media at Spring Training, he made it known his goal was to throw 200 innings. He reached 197 1/3 during his All-Star campaign in 2019, when he completed two games and made 32 starts. Through 13 starts this season, Alcantara is tied for fifth in the Majors with reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber with 79 frames.

Alcantara has proven time and again to be his club’s workhorse and stopper, “ready to go 115 [pitches]” if need be. All of the work he put in during the offseason and spring gives the organization every reason to believe in him, his stuff and his leadership.

“I always say, ‘I’ve just got to be outside all the time, go deep in the game,’” said Alcantara. “Sometimes you're going to have a bad day, you know like I did in L.A., but after that, I keep my head up, keep positive, keep working out, and I've been doing a great job getting deep in the game.”