He had just thrown his first Major League complete game six days earlier and Sandy Alcantara was mowing through another division rival’s lineup. The starting pitcher threw out back-to-back 1-2-3 innings against the Washington Nationals, and danced around some trouble in the third by getting a strikeout and a double play in the third to keep the Miami Marlins in a scoreless tie at Nationals Park. He only needed 11 pitches to get through the first, eight to get through the second and 16 to go through the third unscathed.
It all fell apart in the fourth. Washington broke a scoreless tie with five runs in the inning to beat the Marlins, 5-0. The Nationals collected four hits. They walked once and got hit by a pitch another time. Miami helped them out with an error. A Washington hitter didn’t make an out until the eighth batter of the inning, which also happened to be the starting pitcher, came to the plate.
“I thought Sandy threw the ball good. I thought he had good stuff today,” manager Don Mattingly said. “That inning, a little unfortunate.”
All throughout the Marlins’ six-game winning streak — which stretched from May 17 until Friday — and even in its series-opening loss to the Nationals in Washington, Miami (16-33) played cleanly. In one inning, the Marlins went back to its old ways and, with Patrick Corbin dominating, it was enough to send them to a second straight loss.
The Nationals (21-31) scored all five of their runs in a bizarre inning, filled with lasers off good pitches, a batter hit in the nose by a pitch, an error and one of the softest-hit doubles imaginable. The first seven batters of the inning all reached safely. The sequence: single, single, single, walk, wild pitch, error, hit by pitch, soft-hit double.
“A lot of things happened,” Alcantara said. “I’d prefer they hit a homer than soft contact.”
The fourth inning began with the front of Washington’s order, which meant battles with outfielder Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. All three won. Eaton singled and Rendon hit another, but Miami got a gift when Eaton inexplicably tried to go to third and was easily thrown out. Soto put the Nationals ahead 1-0 anyway, crushing a single 109 mph to right field to score Rendon from second.
The rest of the meltdown was self-inflicted. Alcantara (2-5) walked slugger Matt Adams. Slugging third baseman Brian Anderson made a bad throw home to let Soto dodge a tag by catcher Jorge Alfaro and stretch the lead to 2-0. Alcantara hit Victor Robles with a pitch to load the bases, just barely grazing the outfielder’s nose and inciting a momentary panic from the crowd of 33,163.
The biggest blow came next — a bases-clearing double by catcher Yan Gomes over first base. It had a .090 hit probability, according to Statcast, and corner infielder Martin Prado couldn’t get to the line to make a play.
“They hit soft contact, but it happens,” Alcantara said. “I have to keep it up.”
Alcantara only lasted another inning before Mattingly pinch hit for him in the sixth after just 82 pitches. Less than a week after he threw an 89-pitch complete game with two hits and strikeouts, the right-handed pitcher gave up six hits and four earned runs in five with just two strikeouts. The game was out of reach at 5-0 for the Majors’ worst offense Corbin.
For the first 41 games of the season, the Marlins set a historic pace for futility and averaged just 2.6 runs per game. In their seven since, they averaged 5.6 and matched a season-high with 10 runs in their streak-snapping loss Friday. Corbin (5-2) finally quieted them.
The starting pitcher, who finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award voting in 2018, cruised fired his first complete game of the season and the second shutout of his career. Miami scattered just four hits against left-handed pitcher and two of those were immediately wiped out by inning-ending double plays a batter later. Although Corbin only had five strikeouts, the Marlins only hit five balls with an exit velocity faster than 90 mph and were shut out for the 10th time in 2019.
“I thought we got a little bit unlucky. I feel we hit a lot of balls hard right into the ground. We didn’t catch that many breaks,” infielder Miguel Rojas said. “He kept the ball down. I think he was effectively wild. He was throwing the ball away from some people, in for another. I don’t know if it was by design or not, but it worked for him today.”