MIAMI — In the top of the ninth inning on Saturday, competitive chants of “Vamos Marlins” and “Vamos Dodgers” echoed through LoanDepot Park. Los Angeles had the bases loaded with two outs against Miami ace Sandy Alcantara, who was competing for his fourth complete game of the season in front of a crowd of 23,543 fans.
Alcantara, who took the mound to show he was officially outclassed after giving up a season-high six runs to the Dodgers at Los Angeles in his previous start, did what he has proven himself capable of doing over and over again this season. He delivered.
The right-hander induced a groundout to first baseman Lewin Diaz, who made a good play and passed the ball to Alcantara covering first. Alcantara beat Joey Gallo in the final out, putting a seal on his fourth complete game of 2022 as the Marlins cruised to a 2-1 victory for their ace, who remains the favorite in the NL Cy Young conversation.
Aside from a third-inning problem, when Alcantara gave up a solo home run to Mookie Betts, and that problem in the top of the ninth, fans enjoyed nothing less than classic Sandy. Alcantara struck out 10 in nine innings, marking his fifth double-digit strikeout game. Giving up eight scoreless innings of baseball and allowing just one run on six hits in nine innings, Alcantara became the first player to pitch four complete games in a season since Corey Kluber and Ervin Santana each pitched five in 2017.
“Seeing what Sandy’s doing,” catcher Jacob Stallings said, “it really is kind of an honor to be a part of what he’s doing. You haven’t seen anybody do what he’s doing right now, and I don’t know how many years, but full games, throwing deep in games, striking out, counting out early, it’s special what he’s doing and it’s just fun to be a part of it. , sure”.
It’s no surprise to anyone witnessing Alcantara’s stuff that he’s having such an outstanding season. When their teammates come to the ballpark on “Sandy Days,” they know they have a very good chance of winning. That comes not only from Alcantara’s ability to throw deep into games, but also from her understanding of her arsenal and her ability to switch on the fly.
In his previous outing, Sunday at Los Angeles, Alcantara and Stallings noted that the Dodgers were taking advantage of his four-seam fastball. So the drum mates changed their game plan. On Saturday in Miami, they opted for more sliders and changeups, taking advantage of Alcantara’s dynamic pitches to keep the Dodgers on their toes while avoiding serving meatballs, which are admittedly rare in Alcantara.
Instead of throwing her slider and changeup 22.3 percent and 26.5 percent of the time (respectively), as usual, Alcantara threw both low-speed offerings for a combined 66 percent of her releases on Saturday. And they worked. The only time Alcantara missed a pitch was that Betts homer in the third inning, a 91.8 mph slider that Alcantara was trying to land outside but ended up in the middle of the zone.
After that, Alcantara struck out Betts with his slider in each of Betts’ next two at-bats.
“Everyone wants to get your revenge,” Alcantara said. “I just wanted to strike him out, because he was hitting really well. [off] me.”
“I think we probably could have done a few things better here or there,” Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner said. “But he’s really good for a reason. He is electric. He sat 99 basically the entire game. … He has good stuff: three pitches, four pitches with two fastballs. You have to tip your cap.”
Turner was right: Alcantara’s four pitches averaged between 91.5 mph and 98.8 mph, with his two fastballs at the top end of the zone and his two breaking balls at the bottom end. His four-seam, which he only threw 20 of his 111 pitches on Saturday, topped 100.7 mph.
But then again, that’s just Sandy.
“Unbelievable,” said right fielder Brian Anderson, who gave up the first of the Marlins’ two RBIs before being ejected for arguing an out call. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen him do it. It’s fantastic to be able to play for him every five days. It’s an honor to go out there and see what he can do. And games like today, you feel like he can do it every start.”