Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Alcantara throws a shutout inning to cap an ‘unforgettable’ All-Star experience

Sandy Alcantara’s 10th and final pitch of his first MLB All-Star game appearance on Tuesday, an 89.1 mph slider, was low in the strike zone to Jose Abreu.

Right where he wanted it.

Abreu bit on the pitch and hit a groundball to shortstop Paul DeJong.

Alcantara, in probably the most fitting way to showcase himself in a national setting, just ended the eighth inning by inducing a double play.

“That’s normal for me,” said Alcantara, the Miami Marlins’ lone representative at this year’s All-Star Game. “I’m a double-play man.”

He’s not kidding. Alcantara forced hitters to ground into 16 double plays before the All-Star Break, tied with the Kansas City Royals’ Brad Keller and Texas Rangers’ Mike Minor for the MLB lead.

And while the National League lost 4-3 to the American League, Alcantara made a loud statement during his short outing on Tuesday, showing off three of his five pitches and staying poised on the mound

Of Alcantara’s 10 pitches, seven went for strikes.

His four-seam fastball, thrown four times, topped out at 99.4 mph. His sinker hit 98.3 mph, and his slider was at 89 mph the two times he threw it.

And this came with Alcantara not knowing if he would even get into the game.

How the game unfolded would dictate how Alcantara would contribute for the NL.

“I’ll be in the bullpen,” Alcantara said, “waiting for my opportunity.”

Heading into the seventh inning, NL manager Dave Roberts had used six of its 11 pitchers — Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Luis Castillo, Walker Buehler and Mike Soroka.

After Brandon Woodruff and Will Smith combined to pitch the seventh, Alcantara began warming up.

When the bottom of the eighth came, it was Alcantara’s turn.

The 23-year-old rookie from the Dominican Republic opened the gate from the bullpen in center field and trotted to the mound.

If he had any nerves, they didn’t show.

“OK. It’s the same game,” Alcantara told himself as he warmed up. “You’ve got to go out there and do your best.“

Alcantara started by throwing two sinkers to the New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres.

Torres whiffed on the first, which clocked in at 96.5 mph before hitting the second to second baseman Max Muncy for an infield single.

Alcantara didn’t get rattled.

Next up: the Royals’ Whit Merrifield. He worked the count to 2-2 before whiffing on Alcantara’s 99.1 mph fastball inside for Strike 3. One out.

Three pitches later, Abreu hit that low sinker to ground into the inning-ending double play.

Alcantara kept the NL within a run of the AL heading into the final frame. If the NL could somehow rally for a lead and close the game out in the ninth, Alcantara would have been credited with the win

The Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman, however, retired the side in the ninth to give the American League its seventh consecutive All-Star Game win.

But the final score will likely mean little to Alcantara in the long run. He was grateful even for the opportunity to be called an All-Star considering he was fighting just to make the starting rotation out of spring training,

For a day, Alcantara shared a clubhouse with some of the National League’s best. He spent time talking with Kershaw and Max Scherzer, a pair of three-time Cy Young Award winners. Alcantara asked Kershaw to teach him how he throws his curveball.

He played catch in the outfield with Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez in right-center field while the NL team took batting practice.

A dream come true.

“This is an unforgettable moment,” Alcantara said.

And, the Marlins hope, the first of many.

Alcantara’s All-Star bid marked the first major win on paper for the Marlins from their rash of trades that saw them ship out Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and J.T. Realmuto over the past two offseasons. Alcantara was the centerpiece prospect the Marlins acquired in the Ozuna trade.

Another pitcher obtained from that trade, Zac Gallen, joined the big-league club on June 20 in place of the injured Pablo Lopez. Pitcher Jordan Yamamoto, obtained in the Yelich trade, is off to a historical start to his MLB career through five starts. Two other prospects from the Yelich trade — second baseman Isan Diaz and outfielder Monte Harrison — were selected to play in the Futures Game, as was Sixto Sanchez, the Marlins’ top prospect who they received in the Realmuto trade.

The Marlins will see how their futures unfold in due time.

But Tuesday showed yet another reminder of what Alcantara can turn into if he reaches his potential.

He knows his job isn’t done yet, either.

Alcantara, a man of few words, has a tattoo on his right bicep with that reads, “Work hard and quietly and let your success make the noise. God First.”

He’ll plan to do just that over the second half of the season. Alcantara has some of the highest upside of the Marlins’ young yet exceedingly productive starting rotation, which came into the All-Star Break with the seventh-lowest collective ERA in MLB (3.96). Alcantara is one of two pitchers to make all of his scheduled starts, along with Trevor Richards.

“I just go out to the field, try to be consistent every day,” Alcantara said. “The Marlins gave me an opportunity.

“I feel the same. I’m just happy to be playing baseball.”

Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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