Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara throws second complete-game shutout of the year to avoid sweep

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Have yourself a day, Sandy Alcantara.

The Miami Marlins’ starting pitcher was dominant from start to finish on Sunday, throwing his second complete-game shutout of the year as the Marlins blanked the Kansas City Royals 9-0 at Marlins Park to avoid a three-game sweep. The Marlins lost the first two games of the series 3-0 on Friday and 7-2 on Saturday.

The Marlins improved to 51-91. The Royals dropped to 53-91.

Alcantara is just the 12th pitcher in Marlins history to throw multiple complete-game shutouts in a season and the first since Henderson Alvarez III threw three in 2014.

The only other Marlins player to accomplish the feat as a rookie: Dontrelle Willis in 2003.

Alcantara is also one of just three pitchers to throw multiple complete-game shutouts this year, joining the Chicago White Sox’s Lucas Giolito and the Cleveland Indians’ Shane Bieber.

“I felt extremely good today,” Alcantara said. “Inning by inning, I was just getting on the mound and thinking ‘finish the game.’ “

The lanky 6-5, 197-pound righty, who turned 24 on Saturday, needed 102 pitches — 74 of which went for strikes — to finish the game.

Alcantara scattered four hits and two walks. His eight strikeouts tied a season high.

He retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a one-out single to Adalberto Mondesi in the fourth.

“You could see it early,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “Just aggressive. ... You knew you had a shot as this thing kept going that he had a chance to finish it.”

Alcantara’s first complete-game effort came on May 19 against the New York Mets, another Sunday afternoon outing at Marlins Park. Alcantara held the Mets to just two hits and struck out eight in that game.

Alcantara’s lone inning of trouble came in the eighth, when he loaded the bases with one out on a walk to Nick Dini and back-to-back singles from Humberto Arteaga and Whit Merrifield. One pitch later, Cheslor Cuthbert grounded into a double play to end the inning.

It’s the 21st time Alcantara has gotten an opponent to ground into a double play, which is tied with fellow rookie Mike Soroka of the Atlanta Braves for the third most in MLB this year.

“I don’t get scared when I get bases loaded,” Alcantara said. “One pitch, two-seam [fastball] right there. Get a double play. That’s what I have to do.”

Otherwise, he might not have had the chance to finish this one. Mattingly said he was going to cap Alcantara at about 110 pitches if he had lost the shutout.

“You didn’t want his pitch count to get wound up,” Mattingly said. “Honestly, if he gives up the run, there’s no reason to push him.”

Instead, 13 pitches later, Alcantara and the Marlins walked off the field with the shutout.

It was the latest in a string of strong performances for Alcantara. He has a 2.68 ERA over his past six starts (13 earned runs in 43 2/3 innings) and has struck out 38 batters in that span.

“It’s good to have because you want to see growth,” Mattingly said. “And to see the growth from when he came up last year until now, that’s a pretty big jump. And you didn’t really see it until you saw this consistent run. ... Good spots. Decent outings. Now, it’s turning into that every time out.”

And Alcantara had more than enough run support to get the win, his first since June 21.

Starlin Castro opened scoring with a solo home run in the first, his 18th of the year. Miami then tacked on four more in the fourth and two runs each in the fifth and sixth.

Every Marlins starting position player recorded at least one hit. Garrett Cooper had three hits. Miguel Rojas, Harold Ramirez and Castro each had two. Ramirez, Castro and Lewis Brinson each drove in two runs.

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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.