Miami falls below .500 in Alcantara's return

3 takeaways from weekend series sweep vs. Rays

August 30th, 2020

Not even the return of could reverse the Marlins’ fortunes in Sunday's Citrus Series finale, and now the club finds itself under .500 for the first time this season.

Making his first start since Opening Day, Alcantara showed some rust in a 32-pitch first inning, yielding home runs to Joey Wendle and Yoshi Tsutsugo. Miami faced an uphill climb the rest of the way, falling, 12-7, to the Rays at Marlins Park.

Alcantara was charged with eight runs (five earned) on six hits, with two walks and two strikeouts in four-plus innings. Of his 84 pitches, 52 were strikes.

Here are three takeaways for Miami following the sweep in the weekend series:

Sandy is back, rotation looks strong
Getting Alcantara back ultimately should be a big boost. But on Sunday, it was clear the club’s 24-year-old ace was a bit rusty, especially in the first few innings.

Three pitches into the game, Wendle connected on a changeup for a leadoff homer. Tsutsugo added a two-run shot, and the Marlins trailed by three before coming to bat.

“Today, this is my first start,” Alcantara said. “It was like Opening Day. It was a little different for me. My first two innings, I was too quick. I could feel it [with my] four-seamer. I had to calm down and try to make a pitch.”

Alcantara’s velocity was good, with a two-seam fastball maxing out at 98.3 mph. But he didn’t miss many bats, recording just six swinging strikes. On Opening Day in a win at the Phillies, Alcantara threw 87 pitches with 13 swinging strikes.

Still, having Alcantara to stabilize the rotation is a big addition. This weekend, and top prospect Sixto Sánchez each threw seven strong innings, but Miami was shut out in both games.

Another rookie, left-hander Trevor Rogers, is scheduled to face the Mets on Monday at Citi Field.

“We feel happy about Sixto and Rogers,” Alcantara said. “Those guys have been doing a great job. I think they're going to be really good pitchers for the Marlins for a long time. I feel happy having those guys here with us.”

Cooper, Dickerson, Brinson homer
In their first eight home games, the Marlins hit two homers. They belted three on Sunday -- 's shot off Blake Snell in the fourth inning was Miami’s first run in the series. It also was the Marlins’ first run against the Rays since 2018, a span of 39 straight scoreless innings.

hit a solo homer in the fifth for his first long ball since 2018. knocked his first homer of the season in the sixth against Anthony Banda, then added a three-run double in the seventh.

According to Statcast, Brinson’s homer went a projected 431 feet, with an exit velocity of 107.4 mph. Cooper’s blast was a monster shot at 455 feet, with a 109.6 mph exit speed.

Cooper returned this weekend after being on the injured list since the opening series.

“Getting him back, you obviously see what you missed,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Coop, that's the one thing, he's always been able to hit. It's good to have him back. Hopefully, we can get everybody going around that.”

Home woes
With four straight losses overall, the Marlins (14-15) are under .500 for the first time. They’re also 1-8 at Marlins Park, with eight straight defeats.

The Marlins still are positioned to make moves to better themselves to compete for a postseason spot. But at the same time, the organization also is faced with taking a realistic look at its chances in its final 31 games.

“I can't explain home, why we haven't played as well,” Mattingly said. “I really can't. I can guess at stuff, and I would just be guessing. On the road, you have nothing else but going to the ballpark. You're stuck in a hotel. The only time you get out is when you've got to go to the ballpark. It's the one time you have a little freedom.”

Offensively, the Marlins have performed much better on the road, recording an away slash line of .247/.324/.387 with a .711 OPS. At Marlins Park, they entered Sunday with a .212/.287/.281 slash with a .568 OPS.

Dickerson said the players spoke postgame about not putting too much pressure on themselves.

“That's what good teams do,” Dickerson said. “I think a lot of these guys used to being here, a lot of young guys, also, they try to do too much. You can't worry about a number or numbers during these 60 games. You've got all kinds of variables. All the stuff going around, and no fans. All these different excuses. But you have to play for one another. You have to loosen up. You have to be there and be a good teammate. Don't try harder.”