MIAMI -- With inexperience come inconsistencies, and hard-throwing right-hander Sandy Alcantara remains a work in progress. But on Thursday, the 23-year-old showed encouragement between bouts of wildness and was in line for a win until the Marlins’ bullpen floundered late.
Brandon Crawford’s two-run double in the eighth inning off @w rallied the Giants to a 3-1 victory, denying Miami a chance for a three-game sweep at Marlins Park.ei
“It wasn't Sandy's best stuff, but he hung in there,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He didn't give up any runs. He got himself out of trouble. Proud of the fact of the way he hung in there. But it definitely was a day that it seemed like a battle for him all game long.”
Still, the Marlins have won nine of 13 games, and three of their past four series. It has been the best stretch of the season for the young team, and starting pitching has led the charge.
Playing a day game after two night games, the Marlins were sluggish at the plate, getting one run on seven hits. Even though they took two of three, Thursday was a letdown because Miami was in position for a sweep.
“Once you've gotten two, you don't feel great about this one,” Mattingly said. “We just didn’t do enough to win. It's kind of that day game you're seeing nowadays -- not a lot of juice from either side. It's a different kind of game now.”
Alcantara didn’t allow a run in six shutout innings, with three strikeouts. He even helped his cause with an RBI single in the second inning. But the start was far from clean, with five walks that were a reminder that while Alcantara has tremendous upside, he is still a work in progress.
“My stuff was not too good today, but I was competing,” Alcantara said. “I was trying to throw good pitches and get back in the count.”
The Marlins are looking for consistency from their promising rotation, but it’s not always easy to find in the daily grind of the big leagues. What’s enticing about Alcantara is his immense raw talent, which is one reason he was able to make it through six without allowing a run.
“That just shows how good his stuff is: he was able to walk five and get through it, and give us a quality start,” Marlins catcher Bryan Holaday said. “I was just trying to get him in the strike zone. I thought his stuff today was good. He just started spraying it a little bit, so we had to battle that.”
On an afternoon he wasn’t at his best, Alcantara still managed to find a way to make big pitches when he needed to. That’s an improvement from a year ago.
“I think his ability to recognize that, and just get on the mound and compete and try to battle through it -- I think in the past, it might have snowballed a little bit,” Holaday said. “Now, he's starting to get that ability to be able to shut it down and make sure it doesn't lead into something big.”
After 98 pitches, Alcantara was lifted with his team clinging to a one-run lead. But the Giants scored once in the seventh off Tayron Guerrero and twice in the eighth, with both runs being charged to Adam Conley.
“They did a great job on us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We didn't do much with their pitching at all. They're good arms. They all have a good changeup; you can tell it's a big pitch for them. They also have a good fastball. [Alcantara] was tough. We had our chances there, we just couldn't get another hit off of him.”
One of Alcantara’s keys is attacking the zone, particularly with his sinker. When he is, he can be lights out, like he was on May 19 in a shutout victory over the Mets at Marlins Park. That day, he threw 51 sinkers. But on Thursday, the sinker was spotty, and Alcantara threw just 15 of them.
“We tried to use it early on, and it wasn't very consistent,” Holaday said. “So we tried to go to his other weapons to try to get him through it.”