September 27, 2022

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Anderson, Soler homers can't extend streak

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Alcantara's struggles continue (2 jacks, 4 walks) in series finale against Mariners
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MIAMI — Let’s be real: The Marlins weren’t going to run the table by rattling off 149 consecutive victories. Brian Anderson and Jorge Soler went deep, but ace Sandy Alcantara was chased in Sunday afternoon’s 7-3 loss to the Mariners at loanDepot park.

Here are three takeaways from the series finale, which snapped a seven-game win streak.

What’s up with Sandy?
During that stretch, Miami’s rotation posted a 2.79 ERA. With ace Alcantara on the mound, there was a good chance the dealing would continue. But he surrendered a pair of homers, including the first of top prospect Julio Rodríguez’s career. That blast chased the right-hander with a line of five runs across 5 2/3 innings.

Entering the finale, Alcantara had been turning to his blazing four-seamer (97.5 mph average) 32.5 percent of the time, more often than any season except 2018 (33.5%). But Alcantara was falling behind counts so frequently that the Mariners were chasing less. Seattle is a good fastball-hitting club to begin with, which forced Alcantara to use his changeup (29.1%) more often than usual.

The 26-year-old Alcantara also walked four batters, marking the third time in five starts this season that he issued at least three free passes. In a stellar 2021, Alcantara walked just 2.2 batters per nine innings. Outside of his eight scoreless frames against the Cardinals on April 20, he has looked out of sync, according to manager Don Mattingly.

“I think we’re early in the season, just got to keep competing, keep working hard and try to eliminate the walks and try to go deep in the game,” Alcantara said.

He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere
This weekend played out exactly how the Marlins envisioned during Spring Training, when Mattingly said that Anderson would flex his defensive versatility for the ballclub. Anderson started in left field for Soler on Friday, at third base for Joey Wendle on Saturday and in right field for Avisaíl García on Sunday. Anderson had never played left in his pro career until Grapefruit League play.

A 2020 NL Gold Glove finalist at the hot corner, Anderson has grown comfortable in the role, reaching base in each of his last 13 games. During that span, he is 12-for-40 (.300) with four doubles, one homer, two RBIs and 10 walks. Per Statcast, Anderson’s hard-hit (48.3%), walk (15.5%) and barrel percentages (17.2%) were in the 81st percentile or higher entering Sunday.

Anderson bumped Mariners righty Logan Gilbert’s MLB-leading ERA to 0.64 with a two-out shot to left-center in the sixth. Still, Anderson wishes he could trade that in for a double down the line later in the game. With the Marlins trailing, 5-2, in the seventh with two outs, Anderson looked at strike three with the bases loaded.

The key to growing into the role has been finding a routine that works for him. Anderson makes sure to take fly balls every couple days and ground balls three to five times a week.

“We’re still working on it,” Anderson said. “We’re still tinkering with it a little bit, but we’re starting to get a little bit of a routine down that’s making me a little bit more consistent. That’s the ultimate goal, is just consistent, quality at-bats. Over the course of this season, the numbers and everything will be there.”

Hits will come
Soler beat the shift with an RBI infield hit in the seventh, then he went deep (451 feet) against Matthew Festa in the ninth. In Friday’s opener, Soler sent a ball 468 feet — the third-longest homer of the season. One of Miami’s free-agent signings, Soler now has three dingers and a .636 OPS through 21 games.

Mattingly and the Marlins haven’t been concerned about the veterans’ slow starts because of their proven track records. On Sunday, Miami went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base.

Fellow free-agent signee García lined out to right (99.6 mph exit velocity) with two runners on to end the first. Entering Sunday, his average exit velo (91.9 mph) was in the 86th percentile and his barrel percentage (13%) well above MLB average (6.6). The difference between his BABIP (.267) and average (.194) shows bad luck.

“I liked our at-bats,” Mattingly said. “I felt like we gave ourselves some chances. We really just weren’t able to get that big big hit to kind of get us over the hump.”

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