When Miami Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara faces the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, he hopes to continue a positive trend.
Entering Saturday, Marlins starting pitchers ranked fourth in the National League in batting average allowed (.239) and fifth in ERA (3.89). In addition, Marlins starters have allowed just four stolen bases all season, which ranks first in the majors.
Alcantara (3-6, 3.67 ERA) has been better at home (3.25 ERA) than on the road (4.26). In addition, Alcantara's ERA has improved every month this season, from 4.86 in March/April to 3.23 in May and 1.50 in two June starts.
"Sandy is part of a rotation that has been our bright spot and our hope for the future," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "With all our trades, we knew we had to be an organization built on pitching. We are starting to see that because we have been pretty consistent with our starting pitching."
"Sandy has to be on the attack more," Mattingly added of Alcantara, who has yet to face the Pirates in his career. "He has the stuff (95.5 mph average fastball)."
The winner of Sunday's game will take the series. Pittsburgh won the series opener on Friday, 11-0, snapping a seven-game skid. Miami won 4-3 on Saturday.
The Pirates will counter Alcantara with right-hander Chris Archer (3-6, 5.73 ERA), an All-Star in 2015 and 2017 who is in his first full season with Pittsburgh since the July 31, 2018, trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Archer has struggled since arriving in Pittsburgh, and he is under pressure, with some suggesting he should be sent to the bullpen. It does not help Archer's case that the two key players the Pirates traded to get him -- Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow -- have performed well in Tampa Bay.
The big problem for Archer has been the long ball - his 16 homers allowed this year are tied for most in the NL. He allowed 19 homers all of last season in 27 starts.
Second baseman Starlin Castro, the only Miami player with more than six at-bats against Archer, is hitting .346 with one homer and five RBIs in 26 at-bats against the Pirates starter.
In his most recent start, Archer lost 7-5 to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. He allowed five homers and seven runs in six innings.
"I was throwing stuff right down the middle," Archer said. "No matter how hard you throw, you are going to get blasted if you throw it right down the middle."
In four career starts against the Marlins, he is 1-1 with a 2.42 ERA. In two career starts at Marlins Park, he is 1-1 with a 0.64 ERA.
Offensively, the Marlins are led by Garrett Cooper, who went 3-for-4 and scored the tie-breaking run in the fifth inning on Saturday.
Cooper is hitting .310 this season but has been even better in June, batting .413 (19-for-46).
Miami's other hitting star on Saturday was Harold Ramirez, who went 3-for-4 with one run and one RBI. He is hitting .319 since making his major league debut on May 11.
Pittsburgh's offense is powered by first baseman Josh Bell, who is leading the vote-getter for the National League All-Star team at his position. He is batting .323 and leads the Pirates with 19 homers and 64 RBIs.
--Field Level Media