Sandy Alcantara had quickly retired the first two batters he faced in the fourth before running into his biggest jam of the night against the Philadelphia Phillies.
A single and back-to-back walks loaded the bases as Bryce Harper stepped up to the plate in a tie ballgame. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. took a moment to trot to the mound and calm down his 23-year-old starter. Alcantara reset his focus, and threw an 86.7 mph slider inside to Harper.
“He couldn’t have made a better pitch,” catcher Bryan Holaday said.
Harper took the bait, flying out to right field. Inning over. Crisis averted.
Alcantara threw 3 2/3 more scoreless innings and the offense gave him just enough support for the Miami Marlins to squeeze out a 2-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park to start a three-game series.
“That was tremendous,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I thought Sandy was really good today. He kept his composure. Had a couple chances to let it get away, got some big outs. That was a big win for us.
“That’s a nice little character win.”
The win improves Alcantara to 4-6 on the year and marked his fourth start this season in which he threw at least seven innings and gave up no more than one run. Alcantara has a 1.71 ERA over his last five starts, giving up just six earned runs in 31 2/3 innings of work.
“What I see with Sandy is a guy getting better and gaining confidence,” Mattingly said. “This guy’s got tremendous stuff. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff. We’re just constantly helping him grow. This kid has the chance to be something really special.”
Alcantara’s 7 2/3 innings on Friday weren’t the cleanest. He scattered eight hits — including four doubles — and walked four during throughout his appearance on the mound.
But it was a needed 7 2/3 innings considering the Marlins (28-46) played back-to-back 11-inning games against the St. Louis Cardinals before coming to Philadelphia.
And the hard-throwing righty limited damage, holding the Phillies (39-36) to a 2-for-11 clip with runners in scoring position.
“I never give up,” Alcantara said.
The lone run he gave up came in the third.
Alcantara, with Harper on first and Roman Quinn on third and one out, struck out Jay Bruce swinging. Holaday made a throw to second trying to catch Harper stealing and get the inning-ending double play. Harper was safe, and Quinn came home on the throw for the double steal. He limited the damage from there, getting J.T. Realmuto to ground out to end the third, escaping the bases-loaded jam in the fourth and giving up just four more hits the rest of the way.
His 100th pitch of the game struck out Bruce to end the seventh. His night ended on pitch No. 112, when Cesar Hernandez hit a two-out infield single to put runners on the corners in the eighth.
“To be able to send him back out in the eighth, you could see it was still easy,” Mattingly said. “The ball was still coming out of his hand easy. It wasn’t like he was laboring to throw strikes. It was just easy. It’s almost like you’ve just got your car in cruise control.”
Jose Quijada struck out pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez swinging on a full count to get out of the jam. Sergio Romo, pitching for the fourth consecutive day, threw a scoreless ninth to lock up the win and earn his 14th save of the year.
And the Marlins offense put up enough support while battling against Phillies starter Aaron Nola.
Holaday hit a solo home run in the second to open scoring. Brian Anderson scored the go-ahead run in the sixth after being hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, advancing to third on a Starlin Castro single and coming home on a Cesar Puello ground ball to third base that Scott Kingery couldn’t handle. The play was ruled a fielder’s choice with Anderson scoring on Kingery’s fielding error.