Finally, Opening Day is here! After a long wait, Sandy Alcantara is going to throw the first regular season pitch for the Marlins—4:10 p.m. ET on Thursday—when they host the Rays at newly renamed LoanDepot Park. Tampa Bay lost its two latest Opening Days and four of the last six.
The Dominican right-hander already knows how it feels to start for the Fish on an Opening Day and he’ll try to repeat what he did last year against the Phillies.
Alcántara stymied Philadelphia in a 5-2 victory, going 6 2⁄3 innings of 3-hit, two-run (one earned) ball. He gave up two walks, but struck out seven and took his first win of the season. In doing so, he ended a streak of five OD losses in a row for Miami.
Also in 2020, he faced the Rays twice and got pretty different results each time. First, on August 30, he took the loss and got rocked with eight hits, two home runs, and five earned runs across four frames. The Marlins fell, 12-7. Worth mentioning, that was his first outing after being sidelined the previous month by COVID-19.
Just six days later, on September 5, he was the Sandy Alcántara we all know. He racked eight punchouts and surrendered only three hits and one earned run over six innings of work.
Among the current members of the Rays, Ji-Man Choi got three hits off him, but he’s beginning the season on the injured list, so the 25-year-old righty won’t have to worry about him. But Alcántara will have to consider infielders Joey Wendle and Yoshi Tsutsugo, who hit a homer apiece in that August 30 matchup.
Sandy will try to achieve two rare Opening Day feats. If he throws a quality start this time, he’ll become the first Marlins’ starter with consecutive quality starts on Opening Day since Josh Johnson, who did so in 2011 (vs. Mets) and 2012 (vs. Cardinals). Also, after getting the win vs. Philadelphia last year, he could become just the second starting pitcher in the team’s history to earn two Opening Day victories in a row. Alex Fernández (1999 & 2000) is the only one so far to do it.
Alcántara set the tone for special assignment with a brilliant Spring Training. Across six starts and 20 1⁄3 frames, he posted a 1.33 ERA with 27 strikeouts and nine walks. That performance made him a finalist for our February/March Marlin of the Month award.
It’s not totally confirmed which two of Jesús Aguilar, Corey Dickerson and Garrett Cooper will get the starts at 1B and LF, but in addition to Alcantara, Jorge Alfaro (C), Jazz Chisholm Jr. (2B), Brian Anderson (3B), Miguel Rojas (SS), Starling Marte (CF) and Adam Duvall (RF) are very likely to be in the lineup. Francisco Oporta of the fantastic Marlins History Twitter account shows you their Opening Day predecessors at each position in the graphics below: