Marlins aim to avert series sweep vs. Pirates

MLB Baseball

Right-hander Sandy Alcantara will look to help the Miami Marlins prevent a series sweep at the hands of the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon.

Alcantara (9-13, 3.10 ERA) boasts a 2.21 ERA in 14 home starts this season for the Marlins (62-86).

The last-place Pirates (56-92) already have won four straight series, the first time they have accomplished that feat this season.

However, Alcantara figures to be tough to defeat.

For starters, he is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in four career games (three starts) against the Pirates. That win came on June 6, as Alcantara held host Pittsburgh to one run while striking out six in eight innings.

That performance by Alcantara helped the Marlins snap an eight-game losing streak.

“We’re family here,” he said. “We support each other.”

Offensively for the Marlins, Nick Fortes on Saturday became the eighth player in franchise history to homer in his MLB debut.

“It seemed like he hit everything hard,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Fortes, who went 2-for-3 in a 6-3 setback to Pittsburgh.

Right-hander Max Kranick (1-3, 7.66) is expected to start on the mound for the Pirates today. Meanwhile, their bullpen has been outstanding lately, allowing just one run in their past 10 innings.

That one run crossed in the ninth inning on Saturday, and it happened when a pop fly fell on the mound.

Pittsburgh’s closer is Chris Stratton, who was rested on Saturday.

In Friday’s series opener, Stratton — a former starter — entered the ninth trying to protect a one-run lead. He allowed a leadoff triple but then struck out the side to earn his sixth save of the season.

“He’s done a nice job finding his niche,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.

Stratton became Pittsburgh’s closer when the Pirates traded Richard Rodriguez to the Atlanta Braves on July 30.

“I feel like we’ve done a good job when the ball’s delivered to us, whether it be early or a little bit later in the game,” Stratton said Friday. “Just trying to keep it right where it’s at and trying to give our team the best chance to win.”

Because of his experience starting 41 games in the majors, Stratton has a four-pitch mix that is atypical for a closer: fastball, changeup, curve and slider. His curve is considered elite.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Stratton said of his closer’s role. “There’s more adrenaline. The game is on the line when the ball is handed to you to get the final outs.”

Stratton, 31, has come a long way since 2012, when he left Mississippi State as the San Francisco Giants’ first-round pick. He won a career-high 10 games for the Giants in 2018, but this year has been another revelation as he leads National League relievers in innings (73 1/3). He also has pitched in a career-high 62 games this year while posting a 6-1 record and a 3.68 ERA.

–Field Level Media

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