Lack of support missing for stellar Alcantara

June 23rd, 2021

MIAMI -- Every time takes the mound, he tries to throw nine innings. Unfortunately for the Marlins right-hander, lack of run support took that opportunity away from him in Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays at loanDepot park.

Alcantara followed up his first complete game in two years with another gem. He went eight innings, scattering five hits and allowing one run with three strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter. He threw just 86 pitches. Last Wednesday, Alcantara permitted the walk-off hit to Yadier Molina with one out in a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals.

On Tuesday, Miami’s No. 5 prospect belted a solo homer -- the second of his career -- to straightaway center in the second. That held until Alcantara’s lone blemish came in the sixth. He hit Bo Bichette, who then stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove him in with a one-out RBI single. When these teams faced each other on June 1, Guerrero knocked a three-run homer off Alcantara.

“I think everything was working tonight,” Alcantara said. “I feel a little bit uncomfortable because the ball was drifting a little bit, but I was trying to do my job, throwing the ball and trying to throw strikes.”

But with the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the eighth, manager Don Mattingly pinch-hit for Alcantara with , who struck out against lefty Tim Mayza with the bases empty and one out. Closer Yimi García then gave up back-to-back doubles, including the go-ahead RBI hit to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., in the ninth.

This wasn’t the first time Mattingly had to pull Alcantara in the eighth inning; on May 25 with his club trailing the Phillies by two runs, he did the same. Miami lost that game, 2-0.

“Not really hard there,” Mattingly said of Tuesday’s decision. “We've got to try to score, we've got to try to put a run on the board somehow and get him a win that way. And also looking at, he threw nine innings last time out. We've got to try to win, at that point you're not trying to give up an out. He did his job to that point, we've just got to try to get him a run there.”

These were Mattingly’s bench options (stats entering Tuesday):

C Sandy León
Bats: Both
2021 stats vs. lefties: .294/.333/.353 with .686 OPS (36 PAs)
Career MLB games: 453

Bats: Left
Career stats vs. lefties: .063/.063/.250 with .313 OPS (16 PAs)
Career MLB games: 23

Bats: Left
2021 stats vs. lefties: .263/.263/.263 with .526 OPS (19 PAs)
Career MLB games: 167

Bats: Right
Career MLB games: 1

With the Marlins dealing with injuries to third baseman Brian Anderson, outfielder Corey Dickerson and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper, who will begin a rehab assignment this week, the club not only has inexperienced options but also is fielding a short bench. Super utility man Jon Berti is getting everyday reps at third.

“We had [two] lefties, and Sandy the switch-hitter is probably better hitting right-handed," Mattingly said. "If we can get him on base, we can run Mags there, we get speed in the game. And really with their lefty, we really wanted to take a shot. Sandy was a better option than our lefties."

Despite the result, it continued an impressive stretch for Alcantara, who paces all Major League pitchers with 101 1/3 innings. Since the shortest outing of his career (1 1/3 IP) vs. the Dodgers on May 14, he has gone at least six frames in seven straight starts. During this span, Alcantara has a 1.79 ERA.

The 25-year-old Alcantara even switched up his arsenal on Tuesday, turning to his slider more than his changeup. The young Blue Jays were aggressive, which in turn kept Alcantara’s pitch count down. Alcantara joined Livan Hernandez (August 1998) and Dontrelle Willis (May 2006) as the only pitchers in Marlins history to make back-to-back starts of at least eight innings and not win one of them.

"It's tough, man,” Blue Jays acting manager John Schneider said. “It's such a tough decision when you've got a guy rolling. Do you want to choose offense or defense there in that situation? He's really good. Obviously, his numbers speak for themselves, but watching it up close and hearing what our hitters were saying. ... They have a good bullpen, it's not like they're really sacrificing much when they're bringing in their back-end bullpen guys, but we were happy to get him out of there obviously. He's really, really good, and he was on tonight, so it worked out for us."