Sandy eclipses 200 K's to cap special season

October 2nd, 2021

MIAMI -- Marlins ace may not have been in top form for Friday night’s 5-0 loss to the Phillies at loanDepot park, but he joined elite company to close out his season.

Alcantara became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to record 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in the same season, joining Al Leiter (1996), Kevin Brown ('97), Ryan Dempster (2000) and A.J. Burnett ('02). Only two other Major League pitchers have achieved the feat in '21: National League Cy Young Award candidates Walker Buehler and Zack Wheeler.

That milestone is a perfect example of Alcantara's development as a pitcher. As a top prospect in 2018, his strikeout numbers were relatively low for an arm with his type of high-octane velocity. As Alcantara learned to pitch in the big leagues, his K/9 rate went up from 6.9 in 2019 to 8.7 in ‘21 entering Friday.

“I think the great job that I've been doing, my routine, the way that I've been attacking the hitters, I think I made some great pitches to get a lot of strikeouts, and that happened a lot,” Alcantara said.

Alcantara, who allowed four runs in five innings on Friday, picked up his 200th K against opposing pitcher Ranger Suárez on a 90.5 mph slider in the fourth. But the Phillies had tagged Alcantara for three runs in the third, when he hit the Nos. 8 and 9 batters to open the inning. Odúbel Herrera, Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorius then drove in a run apiece. Harper, an NL MVP Award candidate, added a solo homer in the fifth to make it a 4-0 ballgame.

But Friday's result can't take away from a career year for Alcantara.

Here are some stats that stand out:

• 33 starts, tied for most in MLB; 18th time in franchise history
• 205 2/3 innings -- third in MLB; most in franchise history since Ricky Nolasco’s 206 in 2011
• Six games of eight innings and one run or fewer -- most in MLB
• Five double-digit strikeout games, including a career high 14 on Sept. 8
• 23 quality starts
• 14-19 record for the Marlins in Alcantara’s starts

“It's not so much about just the strikeouts, it's more about who he is and what he kind of represents,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He was really frustrated I think with this outing, just mad about it. Kind of tells you why he's good. Even though it's the last outing of the year, in a game that doesn't have any consequences on anything other than just your season that you finish it out right, that frustration tells you that's why he's good.”

With numbers like those, Alcantara should be considered among the game’s best. Despite being an All-Star in 2019, he probably is underrated, according to Mattingly. Last weekend, however, Rays manager Kevin Cash had glowing words for the flamethrower.

“He's like, ‘This guy's got Cy Young stuff,’” Mattingly said. “You're winning, you get that kind of attention. When you're not, you don't. So if he was in L.A. or San Fran doing this, they'd be talking about him for the Cy Young, and he probably would have put another 10 wins on the board. So that's kind of what happens. And so when you're not on that club, you don't get that attention. But people within the circle or people within the industry who are analyzing things like that, I think are seeing this guy grow and grow and grow.”

The 26-year-old Alcantara will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, and he is a prime candidate for a contract extension. Alcantara plans on resting this offseason before preparing for Spring Training following a disappointing 2021 for the ballclub.

The Marlins’ strength lies in their starting pitching depth throughout the organization, led by Alcantara. That is why Miami is confident it can compete in the future. Alcantara should be a key factor in those plans.

“Last year or 2019, I just want to be the No. 1, and I just want to be the leader, because I know they want me to be that guy who wants to be outside every five days and they want me to be that guy the young guys follow,” Alcantara said. “I did it, and I'm here. I think I’ve got the opportunity to be that. I think I helped a lot of young guys to come here. I've got [Edward] Cabrera with me all the time, and I can't wait to have Sixto [Sánchez], too, here.”