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Dealing Alcantara has 'turned the corner'

All-Star goes seven strong innings, but Marlins bullpen loses late lead
@ladsonbill24
September 25, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Mets are happy they will not see right-hander Sandy Alcantara anymore this year. He pitched seven solid innings on Tuesday night at Citi Field, but the Marlins lost the game, 5-4, after Brandon Nimmo walked with the bases loaded against right-hander Jeff Brigham in the 11th.

NEW YORK -- The Mets are happy they will not see right-hander Sandy Alcantara anymore this year. He pitched seven solid innings on Tuesday night at Citi Field, but the Marlins lost the game, 5-4, after Brandon Nimmo walked with the bases loaded against right-hander Jeff Brigham in the 11th.

Alcantara, who shut out the Mets on May 19 at Marlins Park, was dominant the first six innings, allowing no runs on four hits. He started the game by retiring nine of the first 10 hitters he faced. The outing did not surprise Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

“Sandy was just Sandy,” Mattingly said. “It’s getting to be what you expect. You expect Sandy to be going six, seven innings every time he walks out there. They have been really good signs for him.”

But Alcantara started to lose it in the seventh. After J.D. Davis doubled to start the inning, Michael Conforto followed with a two-run homer on an 0-2 pitch. But Alcantara battled and finished strong.

“I put the homer out of my mind, be aggressive and [get the outs here],” Alcantara said.

By that time, however, the Marlins thought they had given Alcantara enough run support to win his sixth game of the season.

Alcantara ended up with a no-decision because reliever José Ureña blew a save opportunity in the ninth inning. After Davis started the frame with a single, Conforto homered over the center-field wall to tie the game at 4.

Despite the loss, the talk after the game was about Alcantara, who continues to show that he is more than just an All-Star, he is the ace of Miami's young pitching staff. He put himself in the Marlins' record books by becoming the third rookie pitcher -- Scott Olsen and Brian Meadows are the others -- in franchise history to start 31 games in a season. And since his outing on Aug. 5 against the Mets, Alcantara has gone at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts.

“He has turned the corner,” Mattingly said. “The confidence has been building. For Sandy, our conversations have been about being aggressive. 'Let’s get in the strike zone. Your stuff is good. Let’s go attack. You have to refine even that as you go along.'”

Added Alcantara: “I always say I work hard to get better every time. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m learning from the small things. I focus on working my two-seam fastball for strikes. That’s what I have to do.”

How much do the position players like playing behind Alcantara? Ask outfielder Jon Berti, who had four stolen bases on Tuesday.

“He is phenomenal," Berti said. "He has been throwing the ball really, really well for us his past several outings -- just commanding his pitches. He is a lot of fun to play behind. He works with a good tempo. He threw really well again tonight.”

Alcantara’s last start is Sunday against the Phillies, and his goals are high for Closing Day.

“I want to compete. I want to throw a no-hitter, maybe a complete game. That’s what I want to do. I want to finish strong,” Alcantara said.

Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.