Cy Young alert! Marlins ace-on-fire Alcantara tosses another gem in 6th straight Miami win | Opinion

·5 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

Jose Fernandez, a font of electricity on a pitcher’s mound, was cruelly taken from us not quite six years ago, at the outset of his prime, in a horrific boating accident. Less than a year later, in St. Louis but bound for Miami, a then-unheard-of young pitcher named Sandy Alcantara would make his major-league debut, and soon after be traded to the Marlins.

Great followed great. There is no making amends for the tragedy that erased Fernandez, but fate has given Miami its best effort by gifting South Florida baseball fans the most special player since him. This is not recency bias. Alcantara is that good -- and proved it again Tuesday night.

He will make the all-star team and could start for the NL. Second baseman Jazz Chisholm has a chance, too, but Alcantara is a no-brainer. Heck, he could win the Cy Young award if the rest of the Marlins stay hot and give him a hand by getting up over .500 and into the playoff chase.

(Maybe a buyer’s mentality and a deal for a big bat before the August 2 trade deadline?)

Miami improved to 39-40 with a sixth straight win Tuesday, a 2-1 home decision over the Los Angeles Angels.

It happened because Garrett Cooper and Bryan De la Cruz hit home runs.

It happened because Tanner Scott pitched out of a bases-loaded ninth inning jam for the save.

Mostly it happened because Alcantara was masterful. Again. Eight innings, two hits, no runs, no walks, 10 strikeouts. Brilliant.

The save spared manager Don Mattingly of having to explain why he didn’t let Alcantara finish the game. Would have been an excellent question.

Taking out Alcantara is “always hard because he’s always you’re best guy,” Mattingly said. “But you gotta think about the long haul.”

Alcantara topped 100 mph six times in the first inning and was perfect for half a game. It surprised no one.

Had a perfect game through 4 1/2 innings, until Luis Rengifo slapped a single through the infield to right.

Did the Dominican Dominator know he was perfect to that point?

“Every pitcher does,’ he said, smiling.

The Angels would manage only one other hit off Alcantara, a single by Mike Trout.

It was this kind of night: “I don’t have to worry when I get men on base when my stuff is too good,” he said.

Couple of quick thoughts:

1) How can the Angels be so bad despite two huge talents like Trout and Shohei Ohtani? Good question. It’s why manager Joe Maddon got fired.

2) You know what fills up The Louvre in Paris? The Mona Lisa does. Well, Alcantara is Mona Lisa on the mound right now. So how are only 13,338 fans at this game? Your mega-ace is on the mound. Your team is hot. Trout and Ohtani are visiting. C’mon, Miami!

I say “only,” but it actually was a slightly above average crowd for the small-drawing Fish.

“It should be getting to that point where he’s the guy [drawing big crowds] every time he pitches,” said Mattingly, rightly.

Across all of major South Florida sports, we have nobody better at his craft right now than Alcantara.

The Heat’s Jimmy Butler on his best nights might have a case. What the Dolphins hope they are getting in Tyreek Hill might, too. But the comparison at the moment flatters those two as much as it does Alcantara.

Not since Giancarlo Stanton was chasing 60 home runs in 2017 have the Marlins presented as dynamic a reason to not miss at at-bat or, in this case, a once-every-five-games start.

Alcantara is an anomaly, a throwback. Not for nothing do they call him El Caballo.

The Horse.

The complete game is becoming nearly extinct in MLB as the bullpen, the parade of relief pitchers renders the workhorse starter obsolete as its slows the pace of play to that of a slug.

Not Alcantra, though.

“He trains to go nine [innings]. He’s built to go nine,” as Mattingly puts it. “It’s almost like it’s six or seven on a bad night.”

Says the pitcher: “I put my mind in the right spot.”

He says he could throw 130, maybe 150 pitches if called upon to do so. He isn’t joking.

He is the only pitcher in all of MLB with two complete games, one inning shy of a third on Tuesday. He leads the bigs in innings pitched. Before Tuesday he was third in the sport with a 1.95 ERA and holding opponent batters to a .198 average. Those numbers both shrank.

His velocity is such even his changeup,the off-speed stuff, averages 92 mph, fastest in the sport.

He was MLB PItcher of the Month for June. He’s 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA in his past 10 starts before Tuesday, going seven-plus innings in all 10. Those numbers all got better Tuesday.

The Marlins are even as close as the periphery of the playoff chase, with a chance, because of one man.

Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way player, takes the mound Wednesday night. He’s a sensation and a national star, and should be.

So should Sandy Alcantara, though -- across baseball and in his own city.

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