NEW YORK — Jerar Encarnación has been called up to the major leagues, and Miami Marlins teammate Sandy Alcantara made a promise to the 24-year-old.
“I told him if you got a hit or a homer I’d buy something,” the pitcher recalled as he said Friday night on the way back to the team hotel.
Inserted into the exhausted Marlins’ starting lineup, Encarnación made a spectacular major league debut with a grand slam in the seventh inning for his first goal. He also threw a runner out of right field at third base and stole a base by lifting Alcantara and Miami 6-2 over the New York Mets on Sunday.
Call it a fitting debut.
“Let’s go — get my clothes,” said a smiling Encarnación, which he said to Alcantara after the game.
“Anything he wants,” the pitcher replied.
Alcantara first met Encarnación in 2014 in San Isidro, Dominican Republic. Encarnación signed with the Marlins the following year, started with the minors in 2016 and was their No. 16 going into the 2020 season after his Grand Slam against Washington’s Sterling Sharp won the Arizona Fall League championship.
Encarnación faltered after a year of minor-league ball canceled by the coronavirus pandemic and was Miami’s No. 22 prospect after a 2021 that saw him injure his right knee while chasing hit a metal bar with a foul ball, and then was hit in the left hand by a pitch.
He started at Double-A Pensacola in 2022, hit a homer on his Triple-A debut for Jacksonville on May 17 and was promoted to the major leagues on Friday after hitting 13 homers in the minors this year.
In the old-fashioned tall No. 64 uniform and with cousin Randy in the stands, the 6-foot-5, 239-pound outfielder knocked out Tomás Nido as he attempted a third-inning single after a one-hop drive from the right to stretch into a double – field wall. Encarnación struck and landed in his first two at-bats, then came back 0-1 with Alcantara (7-2) in the seventh.
Seth Lugo broke off Chris Bassitt (5-5) with loaded bases. Encarnación got some tips from hitting coach Marcus Thames and fell 3-1 behind in the count. He took a announced strike and then drove a 92.6 mph fastball 371 feet to opposite field and over the right field wall.
“Throwed a pretty good backdoor sinker and just called,” Lugo said. “I figured staying away was a safe bet.”
Encarnación triumphantly raised his right arm while circling first.
“He kind of showed the whole package today, he’s going pretty well from a defense standpoint, has the power,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “I’ve always compared him to Vladdy (Guerrero) Sr, and that’s probably nowhere near fair.”
Encarnación became the first player since at least 1901 with a grand slam and an outfield assist on his debut. He led the Marlins 4-1 and became the second Miami player with a grand slam for his first major league hit after Jeremy Hermida against St. Louis pitcher Alberto Reyes on August 31, 2005. The last player to do so Feat succeeded was San Diego pitcher Daniel Camarena against Washington’s Max Scherzer on July 8th.
Jon Berti notched an RBI single in the seventh and Jazz Chisholm Jr. a run-scoring double in the ninth.
New York, a NL-best 44-24, lost for only the second time in 12 home games. Miami stopped a three-game sled to win for the second time in 10 games at Citi Field.
Bassitt extended his scoreless streak to 14 innings before the seventh when the Marlins loaded bases with singles from Miguel Rojas and Jacob Stallings, followed by Bryan De La Cruz’s one-out walk.
Alcantara, whose 1.72 ERA is second in the major leagues to San Diego’s Joe Musgrove, allowed six hits in eight innings, struck eight and had a foot. He has served seven innings or more while allowing two earned runs or fewer in eight straight starts, the longest such streak since 16 straight by Seattle’s Félix Hernández in 2014.
Francisco Lindor put the Mets ahead with a run-scoring single in the sixth, his 52nd RBI. Luis Guillorme added an RBI single in the seventh.
Bassitt hit a season-high nine, allowing three carries and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Miami got the ball back from a fan for Encarnación, who left it stashed in his backpack. He will give it to his mother Carmela.
He thought back to his brother Anderson, who died three years ago.
“He once told me I was going to make it to the major leagues,” Encarnación said through a translator. “That was always something that helped me.”
Tommy Hunter pitched 1 2/3 innings for the Mets after the 35-year-old right-hander recovered from back surgery that had sidelined him since May 18 last year. The 15-year-old big league veteran hit two in a perfect eighth.
Mets: C James McCann, who is recovering from a broken bone in his left wrist that has sidelined him since May 10, went 2-4 with a walk for Double-A Binghamton and is 3-13 in three games of his rehab stints … Scherzer (oblique) is allowed to start rehabilitation on Tuesday.
LHP David Peterson (3-1, 3.60) is scheduled to start the season finale Monday, but manager Buck Showalter said the Mets were making contingency plans in case Peterson’s wife goes into labor. Marlins LHP Trevor Rogers (3-5, 5.87) is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four starts against the Mets.