MIAMI—Sunday was a great day to be a Marlins fan. Despite the regular season dwindling down to its final games with the Fish being nowhere near a playoff berth for the 16th consecutive year, these games should serve as a reminder that the future of Marlins baseball—that the light at the end of this dreadful tunnel—is a bright one.
After surrendering the first two contests to Kansas City in a rather disappointing manner, especially considering that the Royals are statistically one of the worst teams in baseball in 2019, the Marlins closed the series in brilliant fashion, emerging victorious by a score of 9-0.
On an afternoon where a quality start was desperately needed by the Marlins from All-Star Sandy Alcántara, he outdid every expectation that could have been made of him and dazzled in what would ultimately result in a complete-game shutout.
The tone of this ballgame was set extremely early, and Alcántara wasted no time in establishing it and allowing it to resonate throughout the entirety of his pitching performance. As dominant as Alcántara was, his pitch efficiency was exceptional. In the top half of the first inning, Alcántara pounded the strike zone with his sinker and induced his first three outs with only seven pitches. Granted that one of his outs was a strikeout, this is incredibly impressive.
Once the side was retired and the Fish took to the plate, there was a completely different narrative, and the Marlin bats pounced on Royal southpaw Mike Montgomery. Immediately after a groundout to second by Miguel Rojas, Starlin Castro would homer for the 18th time this season on a screaming line drive to left field to put the Marlins on the board with a run.
While they would fail to tally another run in the first due to an inning-ending double play, three more hitters—Garrett Cooper, Jorge Alfaro and Harold Ramirez—would reach base and elevate Montgomery’s pitch count to 26, putting Alcántara is a significant advantage.
As eventful as the first inning was, the action was stalled through the next two full innings as Alcántara continued to attack the Royals’ hitters and cruise through their batting order while, on the other end side of the field, Montgomery gained some composure and rhythm.
The developing pitchers’ duel came to a dramatic end in the bottom half of the fourth inning, when the Marlins ambushed Montgomery yet again for four runs, ultimately removing him from the game in under 80 pitches.
Jorge Alfaro would commence the inning at the plate with a single to third, then moving to second on a single by Martin Prado. He would eventually score on a single to center field by Isan Diaz, which brought in second run after centerfielder Whit Merrifield committed a two-base error on a throw to third that left the field of play. To follow, with Diaz now at third base after the throwing error, Lewis Brinson would join the hit parade with a single of his own to score Diaz, eventually scoring himself on a single by Miguel Rojas.
What had initially been a pair of insurance runs to support Sandy Alcántara on the mound became an offensive explosion that expanded the Marlins’ lead to five.
Going into the fifth inning, Alcántara was stellar. Having tossed only 37 pitches through four inning and allowing one base hit, he was in an incredible position to continue dominating with a five-run lead. He would swiftly retire the only three hitters he faced in the fifth, completing half a game of work on the mound with only 45 pitches.
In the bottom half of the fifth, the Marlins would pad their lead once more with Kyle Zimmer on the mound, pitching in relief for Montgomery. Despite Zimmer inducing two outs out of the first four hitters he faced, he surrendered a single and five walks in the inning, plating two more Marlins and expanding their lead to 7-0. The Fish would plate their final two runs in the sixth following doubles from both Rojas and Castro, and a single from Ramirez.
Through seven full innings, the game seemed to be incredibly one-sided, with the Marlins dominating on both ends of the field and the Royals being minimized offensively and defensively. However, the eighth inning provided a much-needed change of pace to the contest.
Despite Alcántara’s sustainable success throughout the game, it appeared that the cool-down time resulting from the Marlins’ long offensive innings was beginning to weather his efficiency, and his pitch count began to grow higher and higher throughout each inning.
The top of the eighth proved to be the biggest obstacle for Alcántara in an outing that rarely had any at all, but it was a significant one nonetheless. He would begin the inning with a walk to catcher Nick Dini, then allowing singles to pinch-hitter Humberto Arteaga and Whit Merrifield. With the bases loaded and only one away, both the complete game and shutout seemed to be in serious jeopardy.
Fortunately, the inning would end on a spirit-lifting double play hit by Cheslor Cuthbert, and Alcántara would journey into the ninth inning with a sigh of relief and a heart at ease.
All attention in the crowd now focused on Alcántara, he did nothing but impress in the ninth. The young right-hander swiftly put away the final three outs of the ballgame in 1-2-3 fashion and earn himself his second career complete-game shutout.
Starting Pitcher Stat Lines
Mike Montgomery: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO, 1 HR
Sandy Alcántara: 9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO, O HR
Notable Offensive Performances
Miguel Rojas: 2-5, 1 R, 1 RBI
Starlin Castro: 2-4, 3 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Garrett Cooper: 3-5
Harold Ramirez 2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI
Lewis Brinson: 1-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Royals vs. Marlins box score (Baseball Theater)
Sandy now has 131 strikeouts in 2019, the most by any Marlins rookie since José Fernández— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) September 8, 2019
Fish Picks answer key