MIAMI -- The Marlins are using September to give opportunities to several prospects. Sandy Alcantara showcased plenty of promise on Wednesday night.
The 22-year-old right-hander threw seven-plus innings of shutout ball and Austin Dean delivered two RBIs as the Marlins held off the Phillies, 2-1, at Marlins Park to take two of three in the series.
"To me, what you see tonight, is a guy that you let develop," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a guy who is a lot different than what you saw in Spring Training. He has another full season basically under his belt pitching. The key, when you talk about him, you talk about the potential of him. Is it a top-of-the-rotation guy? Only he tells us that."
Alcantara pounded the strike zone with four-seam fastballs and sinkers, striking out six while scattering three hits. Of his 97 pitches, 44 were sinkers, which averaged 96.4 mph. His velocity topped at 98.8 mph, but unfortunately that pitch resulted in a hit-by-pitch to Jorge Alfaro.
Acquired from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna trade, Alcantara is Miami's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline. He opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans before making one big league start on June 29 against the Mets. But after that outing, he went on the disabled list with a right axillary infection. When he was ready to return, he was optioned back to the Baby Cakes.
At the time he was sent down, the organization told Alcantara it wanted him to better command his fastball and utilize all of his pitches. An indication of the results were seen in the series finale.
"It was a bit disappointing, getting that injury and then going through the rehab," Alcantara said through an interpreter. "They made the decision to send me down, so I just took that time to play my way through. They brought me up here, and I was able to have a good outing today."
After walking Carlos Santana to start the game, Alcantara was able to establish his four-seam fastball and sinker. The right-hander's velocity reached 97.5 mph in the first inning, an encouraging sign for the Marlins because the rookie struggled to reach 95 mph in his season debut.
"We wanted him to get back to his four-seam and be able to use it," Mattingly said. "The key for him is to use the two-seam [sinker] like the four-seam. Not really guiding it, throw it. … When you've got 98 [mph] in the tank, the four-seam works, too. You've got to be able to use all your weapons."
The Marlins gave Alcantara some early support off Nick Pivetta, who worked four innings. Dean recorded an RBI fielder's choice in the second inning and laced an RBI single to center in the fourth. Derek Dietrich scored on both plays.
Philadelphia got on the board with two outs in the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Jose Bautista knocked a two-out double off Adam Conley, and Asdrubal Cabrera slapped an RBI single to left on an 0-2 changeup from Kyle Barraclough.
By taking two of three, the Marlins prevented the Phillies from gaining any ground on the National League East-leading Braves, who remain three games ahead.
On a young Marlins squad, players are being evaluated on how they perform against contenders.
"We're talking about getting experience right now for next year, but the biggest part is, we're trying to win games and trying to dictate who makes the playoffs," Dean said. "Stuff like that -- for me -- I'm out there, I'm playing every game as hard as I can, and just trying to help the team win games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Locking down wins has been a struggle for the Marlins in recent weeks. Drew Steckenrider has been getting most of the save chances, and the right-hander escaped a shaky situation in the ninth inning. With one out, Cesar Hernandez walked and Alfaro singled to right. But Steckenrider escaped by striking out pinch-hitter Pedro Florimon and Roman Quinn.
"That was a good game," Mattingly said. "A lot of good things happened. Obviously, Sandy was really good. Adam comes in and gets a big double play with that lineout from Santana. Claw gives up a hit, he's on the attack, and then gets a big out. Steck ends up getting two guys on, but then gets out of that. It was good to see the guys we've kind of been counting on all year long. They had been pretty good until probably the last week. They were able to step up and stop that game."
Lewis Brinson went 2-for-3 and raised his batting average to .201. The rookie is riding a career-high seven-game hitting streak and is 10-for-28 (.357) in that stretch, which includes two games before he went on the DL in July. In five games since coming off the DL, Brinson is 8-for-18 (.444).
HE SAID IT
"That was honestly the best I've seen him pitch this year. Just lights out. That was a fantastic job on his part." -- Dean, on Alcantara. The two previously were Triple-A teammates.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A replay overturn in the second not only gave the Marlins their first hit of the night, it also extended the inning to help Miami push across its first run. Brinson tapped a slow roller to shortstop Cabrera, who made the throw to first. Brinson was initially called out, as Dietrich advanced to third. Miami challenged, and after a review, the call was overturned.
With runners on the corners, Dean grounded to the hole at short to score Dietrich on the fielder's choice.
"Just getting down the line," Mattingly said. "We talk about guys being athletic and doing some things on the field. Basically on a little slow roller, Brins is able to get down the line on just effort and beat the play. It gives us another opportunity. You talk about speed and things like that; it puts pressure on the defense to make everything clean."
Dan Straily, coming off a season-high eight innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays, gets the starting nod for the Marlins at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at the Pirates. The right-hander is 3-3 with a 4.24 ERA in 11 career appearances against Pittsburgh. Chris Archer starts for the Pirates.