‘I got it’: Sandy Alcantara throws complete game as Miami Marlins rally past Cardinals

·6 min read

As he put himself into a ninth-inning jam Wednesday against his former team, Sandy Alcantara watched as Don Mattingly emerged from the Miami Marlins’ dugout.

The manager made his slow walk to the mound to talk to his ace.

Alcantara gave Mattingly a clear message. He was given fresh life to finish this game off about 10 minutes earlier when Avisail Garcia hit a go-ahead two-run home run. He wasn’t going to waste the moment.

“I just said, ‘I got it,’” Alcantara said.

Mattingly agreed but warned that Alcantara’s leash would be tight. There were runners on first and second with one and the Marlins holding onto a one-run lead against the St. Louis Cardinals. Alcantara was only going to be guaranteed one more batter.

So on Alcantara went against Edmundo Sosa, the Cardinals shortstop who had already scored two runs earlier in the game.

“’I got it,’” Alcantara said. “’I got it.’”

Two pitches into the at-bat — 117 pitches into his start — Alcantara got Sosa to roll a ground ball to the middle infield. Jon Berti flips the ball to Miguel Rojas, who then threw to Erik Gonzalez covering first base.

Double play. Game over.

The Marlins beat the Cardinals 4-3 at Busch Stadium to avoid a series sweep.

Finally, on his fifth try, Sandy Alcantara won a game against his former team.

Alcantara had it.

“It will always be a happy [moment] for me pitching here and facing my old team,” Alcantara said. “I just want to be outside and do my job and compete.”

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Before this night, though, the Marlins (34-40) were winless in Alcantara’s first four starts against the Cardinals (43-35) since Miami acquired him from St. Louis as the centerpiece of the Marcell Ozuna trade in December 2017.

The lack of wins were rarely the result of Alcantara has faltered in those starts. Alcantara had a 0.99 ERA (three earned runs over 27 1/3 innings) in those first four outings.

It was more of the same on Wednesday from Alcantara’s perspective.

The Marlins’ ace held the Cardinals to three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out three over nine innings.

It was the 10th consecutive outing this season in which Alcantara has thrown at least seven innings, the ninth time in that span he has held his opponent to no more than two earned runs and his second complete game.

Alcantara is the only pitcher in MLB so far this season with multiple complete games. He also leads the majors with 115 1/3 innings pitched — the Seattle Mariners’ Robbie Ray is second with 97 2/3 innings — and his 1.95 ERA is third.

READ MORE: How Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara is becoming one of MLB’s top pitchers

“He’s just a little bit more of a throwback [pitcher],” Mattingly said. “This guy’s been gifted a great arm and great stuff. It’s always nice when that same guy that’s been gifted that kind of talent has now turned into a worker, a guy that has a great routing, that is a good example for the other guys.”

But the win almost didn’t come, with defensive miscues resulting in the Cardinals taking an early lead.

St. Louis opened scoring in the third inning on a Dylan Carlson sacrifice fly that scored Sosa, who hit a leadoff single to the left side that was just out of third baseman Brian Anderson’s reach, stole second and got to third on a Garrett Cooper throwing error.

The Cardinals’ other two runs came in the fifth. St. Louis had runners on the corners and one out after Sosa hit a triple that Jesus Sanchez misplayed and an Andrew Knizner walk. Brendan Donovan then drove in Sosa with a sacrifice fly to left field that also advanced Knizner to second base when Bryan De La Cruz, who was a late addition to the lineup with Jorge Soler scratched due to back discomfort, threw home instead of to second base. A Carlson single through the right side then drove in Knizner for what was the go-ahead run at that time.

The Marlins scored their first two runs Wednesday on a Jesus Aguilar RBI single in the fourth that scored Cooper and a De La Cruz double play with the bases loaded in the fifth.

Miami Marlins’ Avisail Garcia celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Miami Marlins’ Avisail Garcia celebrates as he rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

St. Louis held the Marlins scoreless for the next three innings until Garcia sent a first-pitch four-seam fastball from Ryan Helsley that just cleared the wall in straightaway center field for a two-out, two-run home run.

As he rounded third base, Garcia shouted in excitement toward the dugout.

“I feel relieved,” Garcia said. “Happy moment.”

A happy moment for Alcantara, as well, who knew that he would be able to make his way back to the mound for the ninth inning and have a chance to seal his victory.

Alcantara quickly got Tommy Edman to hit a ground ball to second base for the first out.

Then came the jam. A five-pitch walk to Lars Nootbaar and a Conner Capel single up the middle. Two on. One out. Alcantara’s pitch count up to 115 — tied for the most he had ever thrown in a game in his career.

Tanner Scott had been warming in the bullpen. Mattingly came to the mound.

Decision time: Does Mattingly take Alcantara out mid-inning in favor of a fresh arm — that move backfired the one other time he did it, June 13 against the Philadelphia Phillies — or does he let Alcantara work through it?

“I wasn’t taking him out on that one,” Mattingly said, “but I did want to see where he was at. He said he had it. I wasn’t going to promise him two hitters, but I was going to give him that one.”

Two pitches later, Alcantara gets the the inning-ending double play.

“Yeah,” Mattingly said. “It’s pretty special.”

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara, right, is congratulated by teammate Jacob Stallings after getting the complete-game victory following a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Miami Marlins starting pitcher Sandy Alcantara, right, is congratulated by teammate Jacob Stallings after getting the complete-game victory following a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

And it was a relieving victory, considering how Alcantara’s previous four career starts against the Cardinals unfolded:

April 20: Alcantara threw eight shutout innings, giving up just four hits and one walk while striking out six to earn a no-decision. Miami lost 2-0 when Nolan Arenado hit a two-run home run off Anthony Bender in the ninth.

June 16, 2021: Alcantara gave up one unearned run over 8 1/3 innings. The one run: A walk-off single to Yadier Molina in a 1-0 defeat at Busch Stadium, his only other time pitching in St. Louis since the trade before Wednesday.

April 6, 2021: Alcantara gave up three runs (two earned) while allowing four hits and two walks and striking out 10 over six innings in a 4-2 loss. All three runs against him came in his final inning on a passed ball, RBI groundout and sacrifice fly.

June 10, 2019: Alcantara allowed four runs (one earned) over five innings on four hits and four walks while striking out six. The Marlins lost that game 4-1.

The run of losses ends there. Finally, in start No. 5 against St. Louis, Sandy Alcantara was a winner against his former team.

Sandy Alcantara had it.

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