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Alcantara 'steps up' to win postseason debut

@JoeFrisaro
October 2, 2020

A sign of an ace is performing without being at your best. Sandy Alcantara took another step in that direction on Wednesday afternoon in the Marlins’ 5-1 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series at Wrigley Field.

A sign of an ace is performing without being at your best.

Sandy Alcantara took another step in that direction on Wednesday afternoon in the Marlins’ 5-1 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the National League Wild Card Series at Wrigley Field.

Game Date Time TV
Gm 1 Sept. 30 MIA 5, CHC 1 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 2 MIA 2, CHC 0 Watch

Alcantara admittedly was a bit overamped in his pregame warmups. The 25-year-old right-hander repeatedly fell behind in counts, and he dealt with early-inning traffic on the bases.

His changeup was almost non-existent. He threw just four of them, according to Statcast.

“Sometimes, you're not going to have your best days,” Alcantara said.

What’s encouraging to the Marlins and Alcantara is, if Wednesday was an off-day, the results were still very favorable.

Bottom line is, Alcantara yielded just one run on three hits in 6 2/3 innings. He did walk three and struck out four. The lone run he allowed was a two-out homer in the fifth inning to Ian Happ.

Alcantara ultimately kept his team in the game, and the Marlins rallied with five runs in the seventh inning to take the opener in the best-of-three series.

“Today, I was always positive,” Alcantara said. “Inning by inning. You guys saw that I was in trouble, behind in the count all the time. But I found a way to throw the perfect pitch to get a quick out.”

The Marlins acquired Alcantara as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals after the 2017 season. The ace on the Marlins’ hard-throwing, young staff, he is garnering higher expectations. That’s why, even with his final stat line, manager Don Mattingly noted that the team has seen better.

“We've seen him even better than that,” Mattingly said. “He didn't really get his changeup going today. Again, I'm not complaining with Sandy. You know that he has more there.”

Alcantara threw 54 four-seam fastballs, averaging 96.8 mph with the pitch. His fastest was 98.4 mph. But he was having less success with his secondary pitches.

“If he gets everything going on those nights, he's really a lot to handle," Mattingly said. "He was great. We did have some chances early. I thought they had chances early. They had guys out there, too, and Sandy seemed to step up every time.”

Alcantara, who recorded a 49.1 ground-ball rate in the regular season per FanGraphs, got six ground balls and five flyouts.

“He was good with his fastball,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. “He wasn't really getting his offspeed over consistently. He just kept beating us with the fastball. A team like us, usually we hunt fastballs, and we just didn't come through.”

Happ’s homer in the fifth snapped a string of 98 consecutive batters for Alcantara without allowing the long ball. Entering Wednesday, he had surrendered one home run over 31 1/3 innings in September. Former Marlin J.T. Realmuto hit it on Sept. 10.

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On Wednesday, Alcantara was an out away from completing seven full innings. He was lifted at 100 pitches.

“During the first inning and the sixth inning, too, I felt a little [off],” Alcantara said. “I didn't have my best stuff today, but I was throwing [enough] strikes. You guys saw the result. I never gave up. I was trying to find a way to throw strikes and make pitches.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.