In so many ways, Miami Marlins fans have been tortured by the franchise in recent years. But every fifth day, Sandy Alcantara takes the mound and temporarily alleviates their pain.
What makes the reigning National League Cy Young winner unique is his determination to start and finish games all by himself. Since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 2019, Alcantara has authored 10 complete games, by far the most in the majors. Although not necessarily the 10 best games of his career, they have each been memorable for various reasons.
To rank them, I have a devised a formula centered around Game Score (the original Bill James version). Game Score mostly focuses on factors that a starting pitcher can control. I feel there are additional factors that play into how impactful a performance actually was:
- Quality of competition adjustment—I looked at where Sandy’s opponents ranked among the MLB teams in weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) during the season in which he complete-gamed them. Then, I subtracted it from 30, so he received more bonus points for succeeding against better offenses (i.e. facing the fifth-ranked wRC+ team meant 25 points).
- Add five points for pitching on the road (most of those environments are hitter-friendly compared to LoanDepot Park).
- Add five points for facing an NL East team (opponents who have the most familiarity with Alcantara).
- Subtract five points if the Marlins were already mathematically eliminated from playoff contention (lower stakes).
- Add 10 points if the complete game snapped a multi-game Marlins losing streak (regardless of the time of year, fans and players love a good ol’ momentum swing).
I call it “Sandy Score.” Considering how often it produced identical scores for these games, it surely needs further tweaking. Enjoy nonetheless.
10. August 3, 2022 vs. Cincinnati Reds (90 Sandy Score)
This was a depleted, post-trade deadline Reds lineup. Their top available hitter that night was a toss-up between Donovan Solano and ancient Joey Votto. Particularly late in the game, Alcantara fearlessly pitched to contact.
9. September 18, 2022 at Washington Nationals (93 SS)
The NL East rival bonus bumped up the Sandy Score, but other than Víctor Robles at the bottom of the lineup, there weren’t any longtime Nats participating. Miami’s defense helped out their ace in this one.
8. September 8, 2019 vs. Kansas City Royals (93 SS)
The Marlins offense uncharacteristically erupted for nine runs of support (all of the other games featured in this piece had four or fewer Marlins runs). Future teammate Jorge Soler was the biggest threat in Kansas City’s lineup—Alcantara struck him out twice.
7. June 16, 2021 at St. Louis Cardinals (95 SS)
Far and away the most frustrating of Alcantara’s complete games. Manager Don Mattingly rested veteran regulars Starling Marte, Jesús Aguilar and Adam Duvall, even when ideal pinch-hitting opportunities presented themselves. The Marlins committed three errors behind him, including one that set up Yadier Molina’s walk-off hit.
6. September 30, 2022 at Milwaukee Brewers (95 SS)
With the NL Cy Young award already locked up, Alcantara did everything in his power to spoil Milwaukee’s postseason hopes. Once again, his teammates failed to provide the bare minimum support at the plate.
5. June 29, 2022 at St. Louis Cardinals (104 SS)
Going solely by Game Score, this was Alcantara’s “worst” complete game (64). That’s why I felt it was important to take other details into consideration. Alcantara kept the Fish within striking distance against the organization that traded him away. Miami desperately needed a victory that night and he threw a career-high 117 pitches to get it.
4. April 4, 2023 vs. Minnesota Twins (104 SS)
As early as we are in the 2023 season, the 1-4 Marlins were plenty desperate this past Tuesday, too. Alcantara retired 16 of the first 17 Twins batters he faced, the only exception being an infield single. This was the first complete game thrown in Major League Baseball since the implementation of the pitch clock. The new pace of play may make mere mortals more susceptible to fatigue, but this is Sandy Alcantara we’re talking about.
3. May 22, 2022 vs. Atlanta Braves (112 SS)
The three runs scored by Atlanta were all unearned. Alcantara went nearly four times through the lineup (35 batters faced) to go the distance.
2. May 19, 2019 vs. New York Mets (118 SS)
Alcantara’s very first CG remains in the conversation for his very best. Absurd efficiency (89 pitches). He faced only one batter more than the minimum.
1. August 27, 2022 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (118 SS)
Alcantara slayed an All-Star lineup in this game. Literally, everybody that the Dodgers sent to the plate had been a previous, relatively recent ASG selection. Many of them also started the previous week when Alcantara got his ass-kicked in L.A. Sweet, sweet revenge.
What would you rank as the No. 1 complete game of Sandy Alcantara’s career?
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August 27, 2022 vs. Dodgers
May 19, 2019 vs. Mets