Last week, the National League Cy Young Award winner went just five-plus innings before being chased by the Dodgers’ dominant offense.
On Sunday, this year’s Cy Young frontrunner couldn’t even complete four.
In his worst start to an otherwise stellar season, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara was hit, beaten and eventually buried by the Dodgers in a 10-3 victory that completed a three-game weekend sweep in front of 41,125 at Dodger Stadium.
In a short 3⅔ season, Alcantara was tagged with season highs in runs (six) and hits (10).
He lost possession of the National League lead in ERA to the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin after his mark went from 1.92 to 2.19.
And he looked nothing like the fast-working, run-scoring right-hander who had become baseball’s top hitter through the first four months of the season.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But we came out with a pretty good plan today.”
The Dodgers entered the series finale well aware of Alcantara’s dazzling campaign.
When Clayton Kershaw was selected to start the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium last month, Kershaw called out the 26-year-old to say that it could easily have been him, not Kershaw, who deserved the honor.
Before Sunday’s opener, Roberts also talked about the Marlins pitcher, whose almost automatic ability to work deep into games (he had thrown nine innings four times and seven innings in 17 of his 24 starts) had separated him from the team in the Cy Young race.
“Honestly,” Roberts said, “when you see his name on the [pitching] probably, you are afraid of it.’
However, Roberts also said the Dodgers (84-36) were looking forward to the challenge.
Just like when they faced Milwaukee Brewers ace and National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes on Thursday, Alcantara showcased the kind of elite-level pitching they’ll see in the postseason.
And unlike their performance against Burns, when they were shut out for five innings before finally scratching for three runs in the sixth, the Dodgers on Sunday got to Alcantara early and often.
In the bottom of the first, they increased Alcantara’s pitch count while scoring a run after Mookie Betts singled, stole second and scored on Will Smith’s base hit.
In the bottom of the second, the Dodgers started Alcantara’s fastball, with Joey Gallo driving a triple off the right-field wall before Cody Bellinger blasted a two-run home run over the fence and into the outfield stands.
After a Max Muncy RBI single in the third, the Dodgers got the better of Alcantara in the fourth when Betts singled home a run and Smith tallied the second of his three RBIs with a ground-rule double.
“He wore it down a little bit and left pitches over the plate for us,” Muncy said. “And we hit his mistakes.”
Alcantara didn’t help the Marlins’ defensive woes going into the series either.
Betts’ first-inning single came on a hard ground ball that third baseman Jon Berti failed to guess.
Right fielder Brian Anderson also aided a couple of Dodgers rallies, failing to catch Gallo’s triple at the wall and letting Smith’s ground rule double over his head. (Anderson also committed a throwing error in the eighth that led to a run).
The Dodgers defense had a very different day, thanks to two highlight plays from Gallo in left.
In the top of the first, Gallo threw out a runner at home for the final out of the inning. In the third, he possibly stole extra bases from the leadoff hitter with a dive near the foul line.
The Marlins (52-69) finally broke through Dodgers starter Ryan Pepiot when Lewin Díaz hit a two-run homer in the fourth. But those were the only runs the rookie right-hander gave up in a season-best six walks and seven walks.
And while the Dodgers’ top offense rallied late, getting a solo home run from Muncy (his MLB-leading seventh in August) in the bottom of the seventh and three more insurance runs in the eighth, Alcantara’s debacle had already served as the biggest statement of the day.
“A guy like that, you’re going to see him in the postseason,” Roberts said. “It says a lot about how good we can be.”
Brusdar Graterol (shoulder) will be activated from the injured list Monday, according to Roberts. … Kershaw (back) probably won’t need a rehab assignment after all, Roberts said. Instead, the left-hander will do an extended bullpen session this week and then a simulated game with teammates.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.