Miami Marlins and Sandy Alcantara beat Nationals and Scherzer to open doubleheader

©Miami Herald

Miami Marlins mascot Billy the Marlin cheers before the start of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. - DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS

MIAMI -- Sandy Alcantara knew the task at hand. He was taking the ball in the first game of the Miami Marlins’ doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Sunday at Marlins Park. He was going opposite of Max Scherzer in a contest that could impact the Marlins’ playoff hopes.

“We’ve got to do a great job. Me too,” Alcantara said Saturday. “We’re going to be fighting. He doesn’t want a loss. I don’t want a loss. I’ll go on the mound and give my 100 percent. That’s what I’m going to have to do.”

Alcantara did his part. He fired off six innings of one-run ball, limiting damage in both the fifth and sixth innings, while the offense took advantage of a pair of defensive miscues by the Nationals’ infield in Miami’s 2-1, seven-inning win to start the day. All doubleheader games this season are seven-inning contests.

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An Eric Thames fielding error on Starling Marte’s pinch-hit groundball with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth gave the Marlins their go-ahead run. Brandon Kintzler worked a scoreless seventh for the save despite putting runners on second and third with no outs to begin the frame.

“That’s big,” said Alcantara, who watched the final inning from the clubhouse. “ … We won the game. That’s what we have to do. Let’s win the second game, too.”

The win moves the Marlins to 28-24 on the season with the second game of the day set to start at 4:35 p.m. Sweeping the doubleheader would put Miami anywhere from one to two games behind the Atlanta Braves for the NL East lead heading into a four-game series in Atlanta that starts on Monday. Washington dropped to 19-32.

Alcantara cruised through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. He loaded the bases with two outs on a Brock Holt walk, Luis Garcia single, Carter Kieboom fielder’s choice and Andrew Stevenson walk. Trea Turner followed with a chopper to third base. Brian Anderson doesn’t have a play. Holt scored.

The Marlins took the lead in the first and greatly elevated Scherzer’s pitch count in the process. Corey Dickerson and Garrett Cooper recorded singles and each moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch to put runners on second and third with two outs. Matt Joyce hit a ground ball into the shift for what could have been the inning-ending out. Instead, Luis Garcia made a bad throw to first base after a long run to scoop up the ball. Joyce was safe at first on the throwing error. Dickerson scored.

Scherzer, by the time the inning was over, was already up to 29 pitches. He cruised through the next four innings before Miami struck for the final time. Joyce started the rally with two outs in the sixth before being replaced by Monte Harrison, who stole second. The Nationals intentionally walked Miguel Rojas and Scherzer loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk to Jon Berti. Marte then hit a chopper to third base on Scherzer’s 119th and final pitch. Kieboom hesitated for a second before throwing a low and late ball to Thames at first. Marte beat the throw. Harrison scored.

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©2020 Miami Herald

DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
Washington Nationals left fielder Juan Soto (22) grounds out against the Miami Marlins during the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. - DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara (22) pitches against the Washington Nationals during the first inning of the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. - DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS
Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer (31) pitches against the Miami Marlins during the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday, September 20, 2020 at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. - DAVID SANTIAGO/Miami Herald/TNS