Alcantara battles wildness to win Marlins debut
MIAMI -- Sandy Alcantara's return to the big leagues included bouts of spotty command. Still, the 22-year-old rookie right-hander was able to navigate through five innings before exiting with a five-run lead on Friday night as the Marlins defeated the Mets, 8-2, at Marlins Park.
The Marlins' top pitching prospect attacked mostly with four-seam fastballs and changeups, and he was able to minimize damage on a night he walked five and struck out two.
"He's still a work in progress, like we've said," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "I think it's a good baseline to see the adjustments that he makes going forward. I think they'll continue."
Initially, Alcantara expected to make his Marlins debut against Jacob deGrom. But the All-Star right-hander was scratched to deal with a family issue and is scheduled to start on Saturday.
"I'm super excited," said Alcantara, the organization's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline. "It's different coming from the Triple-A team, but I tried to do my best."
Corey Oswalt pitched in deGrom's place, but he was chased after allowing six runs in the third inning. Miami matched its season high with six runs in a frame. Lewis Brinson, who collected three hits and was a triple shy of a cycle, and JT Riddle each homered in the frame. It marked the first multi-homer inning of the season for the Marlins.
"I was telling everybody, I'm very excited [Alcantara] is up here, getting a chance to pitch," Brinson said. "He's got great stuff, we saw that in Spring Training. Glad that the more young guys that come up, the more we look at the future. But right now, we got a win tonight against a very good team. He did a great job, and so did everybody else."
In terms of the big picture, the night was about Alcantara appearing in his first big league game of the season. The lanky rookie also collected his first Major League win.
"I was super emotional because I'm working hard and I'm here and I did my best," Alcantara said.
One of the centerpiece players in the Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals in December, Alcantara was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans and made his first big league start. At New Orleans, Alcantara went 5-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 14 starts.
"Nice, easy delivery," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "Easy arm. Has pretty good stuff. Fastball, changeup for the most part. He looks like he's got a promising future."
Alcantara previously pitched in the Majors as a September callup for St. Louis last year. All eight of his appearances were in relief.
The lone run Alcantara allowed came in the fourth inning on Devin Mesoraco's two-out RBI double. A one-out walk to Wilmer Flores came back to hurt him.
Walks were the biggest issue for Alcantara, who finished with 98 pitches (50 strikes). The first batter he faced, Brandon Nimmo, drew a walk, and he issued a free pass to at least one batter in four of his five innings.
But even in deep counts or when he was behind in the count, Alcantara was mostly able to execute pitches to get out of jams. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.2 mph, and his maximum fastball speed was 96.5 mph.
Alcantara threw 34 four-seam fastballs and 35 changeups, mixing in 18 sliders and 11 sinkers, according to Statcast™.
In the fifth inning, Alcantara walked Jose Bautista, but he got out of the inning by inducing a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera.
Alcantara is filling in the rotation spot vacated by fellow rookie Caleb Smith, who landed on the disabled list with a Grade 3 left lat strain. The Marlins announced on Friday that Smith will undergo season-ending surgery.
"Like I said, he did a great job, and I think you can tell out there on the field, it kind of energized us all to have him up here doing what he does," Brinson said. "It was a great win"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One time previously the Marlins scored six runs in an inning, on May 20 in Atlanta. Brinson led off with a homer, which Statcast™ projected at 403 feet, with a 106.9-mph exit velocity. J.T. Realmuto added a run-scoring single. The big moment was Starlin Castro's two-out RBI single, which extended the inning for Riddle's three-run drive to right.
"Those two-out hits are really daggers," Mattingly said. "They have a chance to get out of that jam."
Added Riddle: "He was trying to get the fastball in and kind of jammed me on that first one, and I figured with two strikes he might come in again. I just told myself, 'Don't get beat.' I put a good swing on it."
In a non-save situation, Kyle Barraclough worked a scoreless ninth, extending his scoreless-innings streak to a career-high 19 2/3 over his last 20 outings. But Barraclough did allow a one-out single to Nimmo, snapping his string of 11 2/3 innings without surrendering a hit. That was the third-longest streak in team history.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
A bruised left wrist kept Realmuto out for the four-game series against the D-backs. A few days off didn't hurt Realmuto's timing. In the second inning, the 27-year-old catcher picked Todd Frazier off second base. It was a big play with two outs and Alcantara already at 40 pitches. Per Statcast™, the pop time on Realmuto's throw to second was 1.88 seconds. The MLB average is 2.01 seconds. Realmuto put some pace on the throw, which was tracked at 84.5 mph.
"Frazier was getting pretty far off the bag there with two outs," Riddle said. "He had a big lead. We thought it was a good situation to do it in. J.T. gave me a good throw, I put the tag on him, call was out. It changed the game."
HE SAID IT
"That right there is one of the reasons why he's the best catcher in all of baseball, I think. For a catcher to be able to do that defensively, plus the way he swings the bat? It's very good." -- Riddle, on Realmuto executing the pickoff and having another strong game
Pablo Lopez, the Marlins' No. 20 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will make his Major League debut at 4:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. The right-hander tore up the Minor League circuit. In eight starts with Double-A Jacksonville, Lopez posted a stellar 0.62 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings before earning a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. The rookie will face off with deGrom.