The first pitch set the tone.
The fourth inning decided the game.
And while Sandy Alcantara limited the damage as best he could, it wasn’t enough to make up for the tough situations he put himself in against the New York Mets on Sunday.
The end result: A 6-2, series-clinching loss at Marlins Park. The Marlins also lost the second game of the series 4-2 on Saturday after winning Friday’s opener 8-4.
Alcantara’s final line: Four earned runs on nine hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings of work. Alcantara, whose record drops to 4-9, threw 97 pitches, 70 of which were strikes.
The 23-year-old righty, fresh off his first MLB All-Star Game apperance, found himself playing catch up most of the day, a far cry from how he played during his complete-game shutout the last time he faced the Mets on May 19.
His first pitch, a low 94 mph four-seam fastball to Jeff McNeil, landed in the right-field seats for a solo home run.
His fourth inning put him in a bind.
Alcantara loaded the bases on a Robinson Cano single to center, a Wilson Ramos four-pitch walk and a Todd Frazier infield single. He traded an out for a run on an Adeiny Hechavarria groundout that scored Cano before re-loading the bases by walking pitcher Jacob deGrom. A Jeff McNeil fielder’s choice resulted in Wilson being forced out at home. A second infield single, this one by Michael Conforto, scored a second run in the inning. Alcantara struck out Pete Alonso to end the frame.
Four of the eight batters Alcantara faced in that fourth inning were hitting with the bases loaded.
“He limited the damage,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He kind of caused some of it with the walks, but he still gets out of it. It could have gotten really ugly there.”
The Mets tacked on their final run against Alcantara in the sixth. Hechavarria and pinch-hitter Luis Guillorme led off with singles to put runners on the corners. McNeil followed with a ground ball to first base that Garrett Cooper tried to turn for a double play. Cooper’s throw, however, sailed past second base. Hechavarria scored from third on the play.
“I think I was throwing pretty good,” Alcantara said. “A lot of soft contact, but that happens.”
The Mets (42-51) added two more runs on a Cano leadoff home run off Elieser Hernandez in the seventh and a Pete Alonso sacrifice fly against Wei-Yin Chen in the eighth.
The Marlins, meanwhile, had mixed success against deGrom and Mets pitching overall, leaving 12 runners on base in the loss. They scattered six hits and drew three walks against the three-time All-Star and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner but only scored one run in the process.
That run came in the second, when Miguel Rojas hit a two-out, bases-loaded single to right field. Curtis Granderson was thrown out at home after trying to score from second to end the inning. Rojas finished the game with three hits.
What they were able to do: Knock deGrom out of the game after five innings by pushing up his pitch count. That gave the Marlins four innings worth of opportunities against a Mets bullpen ranked 28th in MLB with a 5.54 ERA.
They couldn’t get that clutch hit even though they put traffic on the basepaths.
Three consecutive outs followed Starlin Castro’s leadoff single in the sixth against Justin Wilson.
They loaded the bases with one out in the seventh against Jeurys Familia only for Brian Anderson to be called out on strikes and Castro to ground into a fielder’s choice against Seth Lugo.
Cesar Puello singled with one out in the eighth against Robert Gsellman only for Bryan Holaday to line out and pinch-hitter Jorge Alfaro to be called out on strikes.
Garrett Cooper hit a solo home run, his 10th of the year, with two outs in the ninth and Anderson followed with a double in a rally attempt that started too late. Gsellman got Castro to ground out to third base to end the game.
“We had opportunities,” Rojas said. “... It was a tough day at the plate. To be honest with you, we’ve been putting good at-bats together and doing the plan that we’re committed to do.”