Marlins ace Sandy Alcantara opens series vs. Mets

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The Miami Marlins, who are set to open a three-game series against the visiting New York Mets, may have a tired bullpen.

Then again, the Marlins on Friday will start right-hander Sandy Alcantara, who leads the majors in innings pitched (144 1/3).

In other words, Alcantara (9-4, 1.81 ERA) usually gives most of the bullpen the night off, which is a good thing after Miami used six relievers to cover 8 1/3 innings in a wild 7-6 win over the host Cincinnati Reds on Thursday afternoon.

New York was off on Thursday, and the Mets will enter Friday with a well-rested Edwin Diaz, their star closer who is tied for fourth in the majors with 22 saves.

The Mets, who are in first place in the National League East, are set to start Chris Bassitt (7-7, 3.72 ERA) against the Marlins, who are fourth in the division.

Alcantara is a leading candidate to win the NL Cy Young Award. He leads the league in ERA, and he tops everyone in the majors — hitters and pitchers — in wins above replacement (5.5). He has pitched at least six innings in 14 consecutive starts.

Alcantara also has a 1.24 ERA in four July starts. His ERA in 10 home starts this year is 1.66. In three starts against the Mets this season, he is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA, and in 13 career starts against the Mets, he is 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA.

Bassitt, new to the Mets this year, had never faced the Marlins prior to this season. He is now 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in three starts vs. the Marlins. In one start at Miami, Bassitt is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA.

On the road this season, Bassitt has a 4.67 ERA in eight starts. He has a 3.06 ERA in 10 home starts. In three overall July starts, Bassitt owns a 2.33 ERA.

As for the Mets’ bullpen, Diaz has been off since saving a win over the New York Yankees on Tuesday. He should be fresh on Friday as the Mets try to win their fourth straight game.

Diaz has been dominant this year with 81 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings.

Mets setup reliever Seth Lugo, who has a 3.49 ERA, is trying to get back to his form of 2018 and 2019, when his ERA checked in at 2.66 and then 2.70.

He earned a win on Wednesday with 1 2/3 scoreless innings as the Mets completed a two-game sweep over the Yankees.

Lugo’s curveball was filthy in his latest outing.

“That’s about as sharp as you can be in a high-intensity situation,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said.

Meanwhile, the Marlins, who trailed the Reds 5-4 entering ninth inning on Thursday, got a pinch-hit homer from Jesus Sanchez that sparked a three-run rally.

“He’s a huge talent,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Sanchez, who has 12 homers this season.

Mattingly was pleased that the Marlins went 4-3 on their just-completed road trip.

“We lost seven players to the injured list during this road trip,” Mattingly said. “It was an incredible trip for us to end up on the positive (side).”

Miami, though, will need to be wary this weekend of the Mets’ two biggest hitting stars: first baseman Pete Alonso (26 homers, major-league-high 84 RBIs) and shortstop Francisco Lindor (16 homers, 67 RBIs).

Phillies’ Bryce Harper to miss start of season after elbow surgery

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PHILADELPHIA – Phillies slugger Bryce Harper will miss the start of the 2023 season after he had reconstructive right elbow surgery.

The operation was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.

Harper is expected to return to Philadelphia’s lineup as the designated hitter by the All-Star break. He could be back in right field by the end of the season, according to the team.

The 30-year-old Harper suffered a small ulnar collateral ligament tear in his elbow in April. He last played right field at Miami on April 16. He had a platelet-rich plasma injection in May and shifted to designated hitter.

Harper met Nov. 14 with ElAttrache, who determined the tear did not heal on its own, necessitating surgery.

Even with the elbow injury, Harper led the Phillies to their first World Series since 2009, where they lost in six games to Houston. He hit .349 with six homers and 13 RBIs in 17 postseason games.

In late June, Harper suffered a broken thumb when he was hit by a pitch and was sidelined for two months. The two-time NL MVP still hit .286 with 18 homers and 65 RBIs for the season.

Harper left Washington and signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies in 2019. A seven-time All-Star, Harper has 285 career home runs.

With Harper out, the Phillies could use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber at designated hitter. J.T. Realmuto also could serve as the DH when he needs a break from his catching duties.