Mets manager Buck Showalter was sitting at the front of the interview room and running through the considerable qualities of Miami starter Sandy Alcantara before Sunday’s game at Citi Field.
He mentioned the fastball velocity, plus-changeup, plus- slider, deception in his release point, etc. Finally, Showalter quipped, “I don’t even know why we’re playing the game.”
“But we’ve got a pretty good pitcher going, too,” he added. “In order to beat a guy like this, you have to have a good start by your guy.”
His guy was Chris Bassitt.
As it turned out, both guys lived up to the advertising. Seth Lugo did not.
Bassitt owned a shutout and a one-run lead with one out in the seventh, but he left a bases-loaded mess for Lugo. Jerar Encarnacion, in his major-league debut, promptly made his first hit a grand slam in a five-run inning.
Alcantara went eight strong innings and the Marlins went on to beat Bassitt and the Mets, 6-2, snapping their winning streak at three games.
“Chris was great,” Showalter said. “It was fun to watch those two guys compete at a high level.”
This outing brought Alcantara to 7-2. His ERA is just 1.72. The 26-year-old righty allowed two runs, six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
“He’s got a lot of attributes that just figure into winning baseball,” Showalter said. “It’s the reason why he’s carrying an ERA with 1 next to it. It shouldn’t feel like he’s picking on us.”
Bassitt fell to 5-5 after being charged with three runs. He allowed five hits and two walks with a season-high nine strikeouts.
“I’ve got to be a little bit more consistent,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t throw a lot of pitches where I wanted them.”
The Mets (44-24) headed to the seventh with their 1-0 edge. After Miguel Rojas and Jacob Stallings sandwiched singles around a flyout, Bassitt missed with a 3-and-2 slider against Bryan De La Cruz on his 109th pitch, then walked off to the sound of cheers.
Soon the stadium was flooded with boos.
Lugo had stranded six of his seven inherited runners this season. This time, he turned over his entire inheritance.
“Tough situation,” he said. “New guy I’ve never faced before. I didn’t have much information on him.”
Lugo fell behind Encarnacion 3-and-1. After taking a strike, the 24-year-old rightfielder, who was called up Friday from Triple-A Jacksonville, sent Lugo’s 3-and-2 sinker the other way into the rightfield seats.
“Full count, I threw a pretty good backdoor sinker and he just went with it and took it that way, put a good swing on it,” Lugo said.
So where does this rank among Encarnacion’s baseball memories?
“Top of the list,” he said via an interpreter to the group of reporters in the visiting clubhouse. “This is the best [moment] of my life.”
Miami (29-35) wasn’t done. Lugo yielded a walk to Jazz Chisholm Jr. and an RBI double by Jon Berti, making it a 5-1 game.
The Mets got one back in the bottom half on a single by Luis Guillorme. They had produced their first run in the sixth on a two-out triple by Starling Marte and a single by Francisco Lindor.
Other than that, Alcantara was in control.
“He located his pitches, executed,” Lindor said. “He’s one of the best in the game.”