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 MLB.com 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.
--Field Level Media