Alcantara pulled in key spot at 113 pitches

Marlins' ace right-hander reluctantly hands ball to Mattingly, watches as tying run scores

June 14th, 2022

PHILADELPHIA -- Marlins ace  is usually a master at keeping his emotions in check. Upon his return to the dugout on Monday night, however, he offered a glimpse of the fiery competitor lying underneath his calm exterior.

With Alcantara at 113 pitches -- two shy of his career high -- and left-handed-hitting Didi Gregorius due up, manager Don Mattingly turned to southpaw Steven Okert with the tying run at third in the eighth inning. Alcantara begrudgingly handed the ball to Mattingly and headed off the field. Once the right-hander reached the bench, he shouted into his glove, then slammed it four times before tossing it aside.

“I think that's the first time that I do that in my career,” said Alcantara, who recorded his 500th strikeout as a Marlin in the third inning. “I've got to take it easy on that because I don't have to do that, because I know I've got more opportunities to do better.”

No other Major Leaguer has thrown more pitches (1,320) or innings (91 1/3) than Alcantara this season. After falling to the Phillies, 3-2, in walk-off fashion at Citizens Bank Park, he wishes those numbers were just a bit higher.

Alcantara issued consecutive walks -- the first time he has done so since Opening Day in San Francisco -- to open the eighth, then induced a double play off the bat of J.T. Realmuto. That advanced the lead runner to third. Alcantara thought Mattingly might give him the opportunity to pitch out of the jam.

“Never really want to take Sandy out, but at that point, we felt like it was the best thing,” Mattingly said. “He walked two guys in that inning. It looked like he was kind of out of gas the way he was forcing some stuff, and we felt like that was the matchup at the time. I could let him go. He's kind of past the point where we wanted him to finish. We let him go a little bit further, and just felt like he did his job at that point.”

That’s the message the dugout relayed to the bullpen entering the eighth: Okert would have the fourth batter of the inning -- no matter how much Alcantara pleaded.

Gregorius jumped on Okert’s first-pitch hanging slider for the game-tying knock, which stayed fair down the right-field line. It marked Gregorius’ first hit against a lefty since May 4. A sulking Alcantara could be seen shaking his head.

“That guy is incredible, what he's doing. It's obviously fun to watch,” said Okert, who also had a blown save in Alcantara’s May 11 start. “To come in and one pitch… Kind of watched what he did all day. It's obviously pretty tough to swallow.”

Added Rhys Hoskins, who worked back from a 1-2 count to open the frame with a walk: “It was important to get that win against a guy that we knew was going to be a grind today. Sandy’s been doing what he’s doing and making it look easy. He had really good stuff again, and we knew we were going to have to scratch across a couple of runs.”

Due to the inherited runner scoring, Alcantara was unable to become the fifth pitcher in the Wild Card Era (1994) to throw seven-plus innings and allow one earned run or fewer in seven straight outings. He is the first to throw nine innings and follow it up with a start of 110-plus pitches since Sean Manaea (June 2021).

According to Mattingly, there is a set pitch count for each start that is flexible depending on how much the pitcher has to labor. In a duel with Aaron Nola, Alcantara permitted just a Bryce Harper RBI double in the third, which snapped a stretch of 20 consecutive scoreless innings. After tossing 27 pitches in that frame, Alcantara was efficient enough to go into the eighth.

“I think we do push it with him more than the other guys for sure,” Mattingly said. “It's our job to take care of him, too. Felt like he did his job. … We just got to that point, we knew we kind of made the decision. If he got that far, his pitch count was going to be at a point where we weren't going to go any further.”