MIAMI -- Being matched with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom on Sunday afternoon gave Marlins rookie Sandy Alcantara another taste of what it takes to be an ace.
And Alcantara was further reminded there is little margin for error. Unfortunately for the 23-year-old, he was victimized by some soft hits and bad breaks in the field in the Marlins’ 6-2 loss to the Mets in the series finale at Marlins Park.
“I think I was throwing a pretty good game,” Alcantara said. “A lot of soft contact… I never give up. I was attacking the hitter, they hit soft contact.”
A week ago, Alcantara and deGrom were teammates on the National League All-Star squad. On Sunday, they were making their first starts of the second half, with deGrom coming out on top.
“I pitched to contact, and just threw the ball,” Alcantara said.
Alcantara induced six groundouts and six flyouts.
“I thought we did a pretty good job with deGrom,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Get him right around 100 [pitches], close to it, through five. Had some chances and just didn’t get that hit to break through.”
After taking the first game of the series on Friday, Miami dropped the next two. Sunday was one of its sloppier games of late.
Alcantara was impressive in the All-Star Game, throwing a scoreless eighth inning with a strikeout. But on Sunday, he found himself down by one run after his first pitch.
Jeff McNeil turned on Alcantara's initial fastball for a home run that immediately put Miami behind.
"I think he pitched a lot better than what his line was," Marlins catcher Bryan Holaday said. "It seemed like he was getting weak contact after weak contact. I don't even know how many infield hits they seemed to have."
In six innings, Alcantara allowed four runs on nine hits, with six strikeouts and two walks. The Marlins grinded out some at-bats off deGrom, who allowed the Marlins just one run with six strikeouts in his five innings.
Against Alcantara, the damage came in a two-run fourth that gave the Mets a 3-1 edge, even though the right-hander didn’t yield much in terms of hard contact.
“I didn't really feel like they hit the ball hard at all that inning,” Mattingly said. “But the two walks don’t help. He walked [deGrom] there. We mishandled the ball, we could've gotten two in the middle of the field.”
Todd Frazier, Adeiny Hechavarria, McNeil and Michael Conforto all notched hits that came off the bat under 86 mph. Robinson Cano had the inning's only hard-hit ball, a single with an exit velocity of 102.5 mph.
Some plays were out of Alcantara's control, with shortstop Miguel Rojas unable to get a good grip on Frazier's 44.3-mph grounder, resulting in a single that loaded the bases.
"I'm really frustrated because it was a weak game defensively today," said Rojas, who had three of Miami’s 11 hits, which also included Garrett Cooper's solo home run in the ninth, his 10th of the season.
"I feel like we were on our heels a lot in the middle, including me. I think I could have made those plays in the middle, when I was trying to go home with Hechavarria's ground ball. I could have made that play with Frazier at first. We were on our heels a lot in the middle. We have to get better."
With two outs, Conforto reached on a soft-contact, RBI infield single that had an 85.8-mph exit velocity and .100 xBA. The infield had shifted, so Starlin Castro was deep and couldn’t get the throw to first in time, and Miami was unable to recover.
“[Alcantara] can’t control that,” Mattingly said. “Conforto gets the hit. We’re shifting and he doesn't hit it hard enough to get to the outfielder. And that's where the shift kinda burns you.”