Sandy Alcantara on hot streak as Marlins prepare for Angels

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After being named National League Pitcher of the Month in June, Miami Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara looks to stay hot in his first start in July.

The hard-throwing right-hander leads the majors in innings (115 1/3) and he’s third overall in ERA (1.95). Appearing to be a lock to be an All-Star for the second time, Alcantara also should receive consideration to start in the Midsummer Classic.

First things first, Alcantara (8-3, 1.95) takes the mound on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels in the first of two games in Miami.

While the 26-year-old has never faced the Angels before, his counterpart in the Interleague Series opener has a long track record against the Marlins.

Los Angeles right-hander Noah Syndergaard is 7-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 12 career starts against the Marlins. All of those came while he was with the New York Mets.

The Angels last faced the Marlins in Miami in 2017. They enter the Interleague Series having been swept in three games against the Houston Astros.

Miami, meanwhile, is riding high after winning five straight, including a four-game sweep at the Washington Nationals.

These days, Syndergaard (5-6, 3.86) is not the same pitcher he was early in his career in New York. Per Statcast, his average four-seam fastball is 94.2 mph. Impressive, but down from when the pitch averaged 97.8 mph in 2019.

In terms of pure velocity, Alcantara is at the top of his game, with a four-seam average of 97.7 mph.

Alcantara elevated his performance to another level in June, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.89 ERA in six starts. Opponents hit just .199 off him in the month, and he rarely allowed baserunners, reflected by his 0.88 WHIP.

The Marlins have now had two National League Pitchers of the Month, with Pablo Lopez claiming the honor in April.

In his last start, Alcantara tossed a complete game (his second of the season) in beating the St. Louis Cardinals.

Asked postgame if he felt he was the best pitcher in the majors right now, Alcantara was quoted in saying: “I don’t know. There’s a lot of good pitchers right now. I don’t have to say I’m the best, but I’ve got to keep doing my job. Keep positive and keep competing.”

Syndergaard is coming off a win over the Chicago White Sox in his last start, when he gave up three runs in seven innings on June 27.

“I felt it was really positive,” Syndergaard told reporters that night. “It was one of my best ones of the year. I was executing for the most part. My slider is getting better. Everything is getting better and I’m trusting my delivery more.”

The Marlins will be facing the Angels for the second time this year. On April 11-12, these clubs met for a pair of games in Los Angeles, with the Angels winning both.

In that series, Joe Maddon was the Angels’ manager. Now, it’s Phil Nevin.

Mike Trout has faced the Marlins in just seven games in his career, and he’s hitting .318 with two home runs.

There’s not a lot of all-time history between these teams. Overall, the Angels hold an 11-6 edge.


Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.