Grieving Alcantara uses baseball as respite

Mourning the loss of his mom, Marlins ace pays tribute to 'captain of the house'

July 28th, 2021

It was with a heavy heart that Marlins ace took the mound on Tuesday night.

His mother Francisca, the woman his family called “captain,” passed away last week. Upon learning the news in Washington, Alcantara returned to his native Dominican Republic before rejoining the ballclub on Sunday morning in Miami.

• Box score

“She just took care of all of us,” Alcantara said. “Every morning I had a ‘have a good day’ text message or a blessing from her. I’m going to miss that. I will keep those messages and voice notes.

“She's the captain of the house, and that was hard for my family and for me, because she supported me and all my brothers and sister all the time. It is what it is. We've got to keep doing what we're doing.”

And that Alcantara did, recording a quality start in his first outing back from the bereavement list in Miami’s 7-3 series-opening win over Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Sandy León, Lewin Díaz and Brian Anderson provided the run support with homers to lift Miami to its third straight victory.

Alcantara allowed three runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts across six-plus innings. He had a no-hitter until Austin Hays knocked a two-strike leadoff homer in the fourth. All-Star Cedric Mullins added a two-strike leadoff homer of his own in the sixth.

Over the course of 85 pitches, Alcantara used the mound as a respite, a place to forget about his recent loss. Already an ultra-focused individual, Alcantara keyed in on each pitch.

“This week was hard for me because I lost my mom, and I hope God has her in a great place right now,” Alcantara said. “I feel good right now, being outside. I hope she was watching the game, too. I did a pretty good job today, and I hope God keeps giving me the opportunity to keep doing that."

The 25-year-old right-hander last started on July 16 to open the second half, allowing five runs (three earned) in three innings against the Phillies. Marlins manager Don Mattingly wasn’t sure what to expect from Alcantara -- an already private and quiet person -- because of the circumstances surrounding the outing.

Entering Tuesday, Alcantara ranked tied for second for lowest barrel rate allowed (3.5 percent) in the Majors (minimum 150 batted balls). He permitted three to 24 Orioles. Alcantara also had the most 100-plus mph pitches (25) in July for a starter, and though he didn’t reach triple digits, he maxed out at 99.7 mph. He was economical with his pitches, never throwing more than 19 in a frame.

"I thought his stuff was really good. It always is," Mattingly said. "A little rusty just in a few spots, but I thought Sandy did a nice job with him behind the plate. Kept him mixing, using his pitches. I know he probably was disappointed coming out of that game, but we weren't going to let him get past 90 tonight. He was really right there, it was about the right time."

Added O’s manager Brandon Hyde: “We faced Alcantara, and he is a No.1. He’s really good. He throws 97-100 [mph] sinkers, with a slider and a changeup. I thought we battled. This guy has a chance to be an elite pitcher in our league for a long time. We faced a really good starter tonight."

Alcantara’s batterymate León knocked a three-run homer in the second, becoming the first Marlin to reach Eutaw Street. Anderson has gone deep in two of three games since returning from the 60-day injured list, including two in a row.

Díaz, who was recalled from Triple-A Jacksonville, homered for the third time this season. Miami’s sixth-ranked prospect got the nod at first base, giving Jesús Aguilar a chance to serve as the designated hitter. The veteran Aguilar is a name circulating in trade rumors, so Díaz could stick around longer.

“I think he did a good job,” León said of Alcantara. “We talked about it before the game, just try to stay on the same page through the whole game. Six innings, three runs, especially after 10 days, I think he did a good job for us. He gave us a chance to stay in the game and to win the game.

“It just feels good to help the team, to put a good at-bat [together] and just put the ball in play. It was a good pitch to hit, I put a pretty good swing [on it] and it went out. Every time as a player you do something good to help the team to win, you feel good.”