Philadelphia, PA—You think the game is going one way, and then it flips a U-turn and goes the other way. And it all happens on one pitch. Sandy Alcantara was amazing, Rojas and Berti gave this team a chance, and it was all ultimately wasted after Sandy was removed with the game on the line. His game was taken out of his hands.
As usual, credit must be given to the opposing pitcher—none of this is a problem if Aaron Nola isn't on his A game. Nola is second in the majors in innings pitched behind only Sandy himself and those were high-quality innings on Monday. Sandy needed to be sharp to put the Marlins in a position to win. It all fell apart without him.
At this point, I must make it very clear that I will never say anything negative about someone more than is necessary. I am being very careful here not to break my own rules, while conveying how the outcome of this game truly felt.
Because of what happened in the eighth inning, nothing that occurred before it matters when all is said and done. Sandy Alcantara did what he has done in all of his recent starts. He got stronger and pitched smarter as the night went on, seemingly immune to the factors that derail mere mortals like pitch count and number of times through a lineup. His final line: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 113/72 P/S. Read that in a vacuum and think of how devastating it would be for that to not result in a win. Okay, what about a no-decision but the team wins? Not even that?! Crushing.
Sandy started the eighth inning with back-to-back walks and looked off during them, missing his spots by wide margins. Easy takes for the Phillies. Everyone watching got that sinking feeling that his night was coming to a close. And Steven Okert was ready to go out in the bullpen.
Sandy had other ideas. He executed a 99 mph sinker running in on J.T. Realmuto to get Realmuto to ground into a double play. All of a sudden, you could see light at the end of the jam with the Marlins’ 2-1 lead still intact.
But it was too late—the decision to go to Okert had already been signed and sealed by whatever pregame matchup analysis the Marlins had done on Didi Gregorius. Don Mattingly came out to get Sandy, and there was nothing Sandy could do about it.
I have never seen Sandy Alcantara that upset, and he had every right to be. In crucial moments, opposing teams pray for the opportunity to face any Marlins pitcher not named Sandy. Repeatedly, he has shown the remarkable stamina and focus required to be at his best when his best is required. Mattingly’s move was the final nail in the coffin of this game. Okert surrendered the game-tying single to Gregorius in the eighth and the Phillies scratched across a run against Anthony Bass in the ninth.
Who is actually in charge of the Marlins’ decision-making in these situations? Mattingly is the scapegoat, but perhaps it isn’t that simple. I have no idea. The same cycle continues indefinitely. The Marlins have 16 one-run losses this season (most in the majors). Something needs to change.