'He's a lot to handle': Alcantara dominates again

June 9th, 2022

MIAMI -- The 2022 Chevrolet MLB All-Star ballot was unveiled on Wednesday, and while pitchers will be decided based on a combination of “Player Ballot” choices and selections made by the Commissioner’s Office, Marlins’ ace continues to bolster his resume.

Alcantara went nine scoreless innings in Wednesday night’s 2-1 walk-off win over the Nationals in 10 innings at loanDepot park, increasing his MLB lead for frames (83 2/3) and bringing his ERA down to 1.61 (second-lowest in the National League). That mark is also the best in club history through the first 12 starts of a season.

The 26-year-old Alcantara looks like he's pitching in beginner mode on MLB The Show 22.

“I see some people talking about that,” Alcantara said. “They say I'm nasty in the game, and that's what I am.”

Over his last six starts, Alcantara has a 0.56 ERA (3 ER/48 IP). He became the first pitcher since Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta in 2015 to go at least seven innings and allow no more than one earned run in six consecutive starts. Arrieta would go on to win the NL Cy Young Award that season. Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw is tied for the record with seven, done earlier in that ‘15 season. During this stretch, Alcantara has permitted 24 hits, issued eight walks and struck out 46 batters.

“I got to see one of those, and it was pretty good,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who was Kershaw’s skipper. “You don't want to put him in anybody's category or put any kind of label on him, but he is getting to be that guy that you kind of count on him. It's almost like it's six or seven [innings] on a bad night. He keeps his pitch count down early, and he's getting everything over, he's a lot to handle.”

Through the first three innings, Alcantara attacked the strike zone at an unprecedented rate. His 90.9 strike percentage (30-of-33) was the highest among any Major League starting pitcher so far this season through three innings (min. 20 pitches). By start’s end, Alcantara’s 80 percent strike rate (84-of-105) was best in 2022 (min. 100 pitches).

That was impressive, considering two batters singled in the second. Alcantara escaped damage by inducing a groundout off the bat of Ehire Adrianza. From that point on, he never allowed more than one runner to reach base in an inning.

“He's the best in our league, I think. I really do,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “He's got good stuff. He was tough all night long. He kept us off balance. You're not going to see anybody better than that right there. He's really good."

But when Alcantara walked off the mound after the top half of the ninth, there was no congratulatory handshake for his second complete game of 2022. Miami and Washington were stuck in a scoreless deadlock. Mattingly told Alcantara that had it been the playoffs, he would’ve sent him out for extras. A starting pitcher hasn’t recorded an out in the 10th since Cliff Lee in ‘12.

The Marlins were unable to walk it off despite the first two batters reaching via single and walk. After giving up a run in the 10th, Mattingly turned to pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo, who sent a blooper to right that Jazz Chisholm Jr. got a late read on. He was initially ruled out at home on a swim-move headfirst slide, but a replay review overturned the call and tied the game at 1, with replay officials ruling that Chisholm hadn’t been given a lane to slide by Washington catcher Keibert Ruiz. Jesús Aguilar then hit a comebacker that bounced off second base into center, scoring Astudillo as the winning run.

Though Alcantara didn’t factor into the decision, punching a ticket to his second Midsummer Classic, which is scheduled for July 19 at Dodger Stadium, seems all but certain. Now it’s a matter of whether he receives the honor of being the first Marlins pitcher to start the All-Star Game.

“This guy's not done as far as getting better,” Mattingly said. “He's got a chance to get better and better. He's still got ceiling left, and I think that's what's going to be cool to watch him. Wish more people would come out to see him, honestly. I'm thankful for the people that are here, but when he pitches, it really should turn into what [José Fernández] was able to do here, where you get an extra 10,000 people every time he toes the rubber, because it's special."