Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara’s emergence as one of the better pitchers in the Majors made Friday night’s performance against the Dodgers all the more surprising. He recorded just four outs and surrendered a career-high eight earned runs in a 9-6 loss at Dodger Stadium.
In the shortest start of his career, Alcantara allowed the first seven batters to reach in an eight-run second inning, starting with a leadoff walk and continuing with six hits. Max Muncy's three-run homer to right-center with one out chased Alcantara after 55 pitches, 38 in the second. Alcantara had never gone fewer than four innings -- done four times, most recently on Aug. 30, 2020, in his return from COVID-19.
“I don't know what happened,” said Alcantara, whose ERA jumped from 2.72 to 4.06. “I just came out with my same mentality when I was in the first inning, and everything changed too quick. I don't know what I was doing, but I think they got my pitches. I've got to keep working hard and keep watching the video and see what I have to do to get better.”
Alcantara looked more like the pitcher the Marlins have grown accustomed to in the first, striking out consecutive batters via four-seamers with a runner at third and one out. But even then, he would get ahead in counts and be unable to put the batter away -- as evidenced by leadoff walks in the first and second.
Whether it be missed location or tipped pitches, the Dodgers took advantage, as Alcantara was unable to stop the bleeding. Manager Don Mattingly told his starter on the bench to flush the outing. After all, it was one inning of a season -- one in which Miami’s ace hopes to reach 200 frames for the first time.
“In the first at-bat, he absolutely dotted a couple pitches that I have no chance of hitting," said Muncy, who struck out swinging on an elevated 99 mph fastball in the first inning. "And the second at-bat, he didn’t.
“I don’t know if it’s one of those things where he just didn’t make his pitches or if we spoiled a couple pitches and that frustrated him, I’m not entirely sure. But I just know for me, he left a pitch over the plate, where in the first at-bat, everything was right on the corner or right at the top of the zone, and there was no chance of hitting it.”
Since his All-Star season in 2019, Alcantara entered Friday ranked among the best for qualified MLB starting pitchers in the following categories:
• 2 complete games (t-8th)
• 32.3 percent hard-hit rate (11th)
• 3.55 ERA (14th)
• 289 innings (19th)
• 3.9 WAR (31st)
Alcantara’s ERA during that span is better than the likes of Lucas Giolito, Charlie Morton, Trevor Bauer and Aaron Nola. The hard-hit rate is lower than Gerrit Cole’s and Max Scherzer’s. His 47 starts are one more than Clayton Kershaw, whom he countered in the series opener.
Entering Friday, Alcantara had given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his eight starts in 2021. Over the past three seasons, he has gone six innings or more in 32 of the 48 starts. The 25-year-old has been as reliable as they come.
“There’s games when you look at it and say that wasn't the best Sandy,” Mattingly said. “You always say his stuff's good, but days that he seems a little more tentative, one thing or another, he [still] ends up going six [innings] and giving up one or two [runs]. And so, definitely surprising what happened to him today.
“[Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.] will look at it overnight, see really where the pitches were and actually look at the details. It's hard to talk about that right after the game. You see the result, but you don't see the nuts and bolts of it. I tend to think Sandy was a little overamped, knowing that you're playing the world champs and he wanted to go show what he could do.”