An impressive common denominator in both Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez’s first career starts was each young pitcher’s ability to work their way out of stressful innings while limiting damage.
Both Alcantara and Lopez faced multiple situations where they put runners on base, but pitched out of trouble with little or no damage.
Although he gave up a solo home run to the second batter he faced, Jose Bautista, Lopez navigated through the rest of that inning, and also shook off a later mistake when he gave up another solo homer to Todd Frazier.
“We got back to the dugout, and I said, ‘Welcome to the big leagues, kid!’” J.T. Realmuto said. “You’re on top of the world the first three pitches, and the next time, homer. But after that, he made great pitches. He made one more mistake to Frazier, but other than that, he worked both sides of the plate, mixed his pitches well and just did a great job for us.”
Alcantara had some trouble with control walking five batters, but he allowed only one run despite putting runners on base in all five innings he pitched. He threw 98 pitches (52 for strikes) and induced eight swinging strikes. His velocity wasn't as high as 100 mph as he's capable of, but Alcantara touched 96.5 mph and kept it consistently above 94.
Lopez threw 97 pitches with 74 for strikes counting the 19 balls that were put in play. But he induced 10 swinging strikes and even survived a tough 30-pitch second inning in which Mets’ hitters fouled off 17 pitches without allowing any runs.
"I think what we see is his strike throwing was impressive,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “The fact both of those guys kept their composure is really important that those guys are those types of pitchers. They are going to get rattled by giving up a home run or putting guys on base. Limit damage, keep the game in check and give the guys on offense a chance to do their thing. Pablo’s presence was really good. J.T. [Realmuto] had a better feel for what he wanted to do with Pablo.
"You throw that many strikes it puts you in a position to be able to use the balls that you do throw with purpose. It’s going to allow him to do more things as opposed to a guy that’s not really throwing strikes and can’t really afford to use your pitches to set up the next pitch or next at-bat.”
It’ll probably feel like the Marlins made a trade without actually making one when they get Garrett Cooper back in their lineup.
Cooper, 27, barely got his season started before suffering a right wrist contusion that’s held him out since April 1. Cooper was the Marlins’ Opening Day right fielder, but took only seven at-bats and played their first four games before suffering the injury.
Mattingly said Cooper is likely to return before the All-Star break (July 16-19).
Cooper was acquired by the Marlins, along with starting pitcher Caleb Smith, in a trade with the New York Yankees in November for international pool money.
Cooper, who can also play first base, made his major-league debut with the Yankees last year and hit .326 (14 for 43) with six RBI while appearing in 13 games.
“We want to see what Coop can do almost like the young pitchers,” Mattingly said. “He’s another guy we want to see what he’s capable of doing. We can move him from first to right field to left field and be able to give guys days. But just to get him into the lineup and see what he can do with his bat.”
During his first 10 rehab games combined, Cooper has hit .367 with a home run and five RBI.
Although Cooper has yet to hit a home run in the majors, he has shown that power element in the minors. Cooper hit 18 homers combined at the Double A and Triple A levels in 2017 for the Yankees and 46 overall since starting his career with the Brewers, who drafted him in the sixth round in 2013 out of Auburn University.
"We saw him in spring and that doesn’t tell you too much, but we a swing that’s a lot like Andy [Brian Anderson],” Mattingly said. “He uses the whole field. He’s a guy that kind of hits first and power will come as he goes.”
Monday: Miami Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (0-5, 6.14 ERA) vs. Tampa Bay Rays RHP Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 4.08), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.