Built for 9: Alcantara's strength on display in latest complete game

May 22nd, 2022

MIAMI -- Former Cy Young Award winner and two-time ERA title champion Zack Greinke, the owner of 17 complete games, was once asked by manager Don Mattingly, when both were with the Dodgers, how he felt in between innings.

I feel all right, but I’m better than anybody you’ve got down there.

With two runs already in against Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara following a dropped foul ball by first baseman Jesús Aguilar, Adam Duvall represented the tying run against his former club.

“When Sandy's out there, you kind of feel like he's better than anybody you’ve got down there,” Mattingly said. “You don't want to take him out if he's still throwing the ball good. But I'm not going to allow him to lose that game at 118 pitches or something.”

Alcantara got Duvall to pop out for his first nine-inning complete game since 2019, but Jazz Chisholm Jr. exited the 4-3 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon at loanDepot park with left hamstring tightness.

Here are some tidbits from Alcantara’s latest gem:

• His four complete games since 2019 are tied for second most with Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer and Germán Márquez.

• It was the first nine-inning complete game against the Braves since Hyun Jin Ryu (May 7, 2019).

• Alcantara’s 115 pitches were third most by a pitcher this season.

• Alcantara is fourth in MLB with 504 2/3 innings since 2019.

“What he did today was awesome,” said Braves righty Ian Anderson, who gave up four runs in six-plus innings. “Day game to go nine innings, even with what happened in the ninth kind of throwing him off a little bit, he's a bulldog. I think he's one of those guys that they were talking about on the broadcast [who’s] just built for going nine and has that mentality.”

Since consecutive mediocre -- by Alcantara’s standards -- starts on May 1 and 6 (7 ER, 10 1/3 IP), Alcantara has allowed two earned runs over 24 innings in his next three. His ERA has dropped from 3.03 to 2.11 -- fourth lowest in the National League.

The 26-year-old Alcantara capitalized on the Braves’ aggressiveness, needing just 37 pitches through the first four frames. Ronald Acuña Jr.’s leadoff double in the fourth snapped a stretch of 29 straight batters retired by Alcantara dating back to his last start.

“When I have bad starts, I don't feel bad, because I've got more opportunities to keep getting better, to keep competing,” Alcantara said. “Like I told you guys a couple weeks ago when I got back-to-back bad starts, I've been working so hard to keep getting better to compete, and I did tonight.”

While Alcantara dealt, Miami’s most dynamic player became the latest infielder to sustain an injury. Chisholm, who was spiked on Ozzie Albies' stolen-base attempt on Saturday night, remained in that game. But his left leg was affecting him during Sunday's first inning. Chisholm had a 24.1 ft/sec sprint speed going from first to third on Aguilar's double. Rookie Joe Dunand took over for Chisholm at second base to begin the third inning. Primarily a third baseman and shortstop, Dunand had never appeared at the position at N.C. State, in the Minors or in his brief taste of the Majors.

Miami has been careful with Chisholm this season, giving him days off to keep his legs -- which he relies on so heavily -- fresh. He spent time on the IL with a left hamstring strain from April 28-May 16, 2021.

Postgame, the severity of Chisholm’s hamstring wasn’t known. Monday is an off-day before the club leaves for a three-city trip. If the situation ends up being more than a day-to-day thing, this could put Miami in even more of a bind.

Shortstop Miguel Rojas sat out the series finale with left calf tightness after being replaced in Saturday's seventh inning. He was wearing a compression sleeve on his leg on Sunday. Both infielder Joey Wendle (right hamstring strain) and utility player Jon Berti (undisclosed) will begin rehab assignments on Tuesday, per Mattingly. Jorge Soler (lower back stiffness) is being monitored after missing two games this week and being relegated to designated hitter twice this weekend.

Without Wendle and Berti, in particular, the Marlins cannot play matchups or utilize their depth like they did in April.

“No. 1 with Bert and Joey, medical drives the plan,” Mattingly said. “Just because Jazz is feeling something, that doesn't mean we push Joey to come back or Bert to come back. Those guys are on their programs. We'll move forward with their program and we'll see where Jazz is. Miggy was a lot better today."