Sandy Alcantara has better outing in Marlins’ 5-4 win over Cubs in 14 innings

·3 min read

Last season, Sandy Alcantara was the best pitcher in baseball and finished the year with a 2.28 ERA, 207 strikeouts and the National League Cy Young award.

In 2023, Alcantara has failed to replicate that success in the early going.

But in the Miami Marlins’ 5-4 extra-innings win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field, Alcantara showed flashes of his 2022 dominance. His performance on the mound, a balk resulting in the go-ahead run scoring in extras and Andrew Nardi closing it out helped Miami avoid the sweep in Chicago.

“I’m just proud of the guys, much-needed win,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “We played clean baseball. So many different scenarios happened and we came through. Just a really nice win.”

The Marlins’ offense failed to capitalize much in extra innings, however a balk on Cubs’ reliever Adbert Alzolay in the 14th inning helped the team win yet another one-run game. With the victory, Miami moves to 11-0 in such games and ties the 1972 New York Mets for the highest win streak in one-run games to open a season, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“When the game’s tight and the pressure is on, it shows that we stay poised and and just get the job done,” said Garrett Hampson, who scored the game-winning run. “Today wasn’t the prettiest game, but at the end of day, we scrapped a win at the end.”

Alcantara came into his seventh outing allowing three-plus runs in four of his six starts to begin the year. He had only three such games in the first four months of last season from April through July.

The Marlins, though, remained confident that Alcantara could get back to that elite-level pitching, and he did so on Sunday. He gave up just two runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts across 8 1/3 innings.

“I feel great about it because I know all the hard work and the sacrifice that I’m making with my pitching coach,” the right-hander said.

Alcantara tossed two clean frames in the first two innings before running into some trouble in the third. After allowing back-to-back singles to lead off that inning, a sacrifice bunt by Cubs’ catcher Miguel Amaya moved both runners into scoring position with one out.

But like last year, Alcantara came up big. He got Nico Hoerner to pop up to Luis Arraez and caught Dansby Swanson looking on a 99.5-mph sinker up in the zone to end the inning with no damage.

After that, he was cruising on the mound through eight dominant innings, and Schumaker decided to give him the chance to complete the shutout in the ninth. But Alcantara couldn’t, as he allowed two runs on three hits in the inning and lost the 2-0 lead.

“It was awesome,” Schumaker said. “He was throwing 100 mph in the ninth inning. He got some big outs along the way, runners in scoring position. But didn’t feel like there were any real leverage spots except for a couple innings and that’s why I sent him back out there in the ninth.”

Despite the rough ninth inning, it was one of Alcantara’s strongest starts in 2023. He topped out at 100.3 mph on his four-seam fastball, induced 15 swings-and-misses, and went six-plus innings for just the third time this season.

The start of Alcantara’s season surely hasn’t gone as expected. But if the Marlins can get their ace back to that Cy Young level, it will be big for the team moving forward. Sunday’s dominance might have helped him turn a corner.