Sandy bolsters ASG starter case with 10 K's

July 6th, 2022

MIAMI -- For your consideration: Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara as the National League’s All-Star Game starter.

The NL Pitcher of the Month for June, Alcantara began his July by striking out 10 batters across eight scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Tuesday night at loanDepot park. Had it not been for a long bottom half of the eighth, Alcantara would have been given the chance to become the first player in nearly five seasons to record consecutive nine-inning complete games (Corey Kluber in August 2017).

Behind Alcantara’s 107-pitch gem and homers by Garrett Cooper and Bryan De La Cruz, Miami won its sixth game in a row, moving the ballclub one game below .500 for the first time since May 7.

“It was nice tonight to get a win,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I'm glad there were a lot of people here. It was a good crowd to watch him. It should be that way every time he pitches. I know there was a lot of stuff going on with the other club, too. You get to come see [Mike] Trout, one of the best players of this generation, and [Shohei] Ohtani and the whole thing. But Sandy's a show every time he pitches and should be getting where he's that guy that brings extra people here.”

In a possible preview of the Midsummer Classic two weeks from today, Alcantara matched up against American League MVPs Trout and Ohtani for the first time in his career. The duo looked overmatched, going 1-for-6 with two strikeouts. Trout’s infield hit was one of just two knocks against Alcantara, who retired the first 14 batters he faced before Luis Rengifo’s two-out single in the fifth inning.

The 26-year-old Alcantara stuck to the scouting report when navigating Trout and Ohtani back-to-back in the Angels’ order. Trout, a three-time MVP, has been susceptible to high-velocity fastballs up in the zone this season.

So in their first meeting, Alcantara threw five straight fastballs that ranged from 98.6 to 100.3 mph, and Trout was called looking at a 99.4 mph four-seamer that appeared outside the zone. In the fourth inning, Alcantara introduced his slider, then turned to fastballs on seven of the next eight pitches, ending with Trout swinging through a 99.4 mph middle-middle four-seamer. In the third at-bat, which ended in an infield hit deep into the hole at short, Alcantara tossed three four-seamers.

“You have to get a good pitch to hit, and he's got good stuff, some of the best I've seen,” Trout said. “He's got great numbers. I talked to a lot of guys around the league, and he's up there with good stuff. So when he throws 100 [mph] and he's got a bunch of secondary pitches that he can put them where it's at, it's just one of those nights we just ran into a tough pitcher.”

As for Ohtani, Alcantara provided a healthy dose of changeups (which Ohtani has struggled with in 2022) -- four of seven to be exact -- in the first meeting for a groundout to third. The second go-around, Ohtani chased a 92.6 mph changeup below the zone for a second straight groundout to the hot corner. In the seventh, Ohtani grounded into a fielder’s choice by chasing a 99.4 mph sinker way outside that erased Trout’s hit. Ohtani stole a base and advanced to third on Taylor Ward’s deep flyout to center to pose a threat to Miami’s 2-0 lead.

But just like the only other time a runner reached third base, Alcantara thwarted the threat with a strikeout. With Ohtani at third with two outs, Alcantara threw a 100.6 mph sinker -- his hardest pitch of the season – that Jared Walsh foul tipped into catcher Jacob Stallings’ glove for the final out of the frame.

“I don't have to worry when I get men on base, because my stuff is too good,” Alcantara said.

That much is for certain. Alcantara’s main competition to get the starting nod at the Midsummer Classic is Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who leads the NL with a 1.54 ERA. Though Alcantara’s ERA (1.82) is higher, he has thrown 41 2/3 more innings. Also possibly working against Alcantara is the fact that the All-Star Game is taking place at Gonsolin’s home ballpark of Dodger Stadium this season.

No matter when Alcantara pitches during the Midsummer Classic, he is eager to reunite with nine-time All-Star Trout and 2021 All-Star Ohtani.

“It's going to be good being there again, with Ohtani and Trout, having fun with them talking about the game tonight,” Alcantara said. “It's going to be good, a great opportunity for us.”