NEW YORK — Jerar Encarnacion was 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 get a hit or a homer, I’m going to buy something,” the pitcher recalled saying on the way back to the team hotel Friday night.
Inserted into the depleted Marlins’ starting lineup, Encarnacion made a spectacular major league debut with a go-ahead, seventh-inning grand slam for his first hit. He also threw out a runner at third base from right field and stole a base, lifting Alcantara and Miami over the New York Mets 6-2 on Sunday.
Call it a suitable debut.
“Let’s go — get my clothes,” a smiling Encarnacion said he told Alcantara after game.
“Anything he wants,” the pitcher responded.
Alcantara first met Encarnacion in 2014 in San Isidro, Dominican Republic. Encarnacion signed with the Marlins the following year, started in the minors in 2016 and was their No. 16 prospect heading into the 2020 season after his grand slam off Washington’s Sterling Sharp won the Arizona Fall League championship.
Encarnacion stalled following a year of minor league ball canceled by the coronavirus pandemic and was Miami’s No. 22 prospect after a 2021 season in which he hurt his right knee while hitting a metal pole when chasing a foul ball and then was hit on his left hand by a pitch.
He began 2022 at Double-A Pensacola, homered in his Triple-A debut for Jacksonville on May 17 and was brought up to the big leagues Friday after hitting 13 homers in the minors this year.
Wearing unfashionably high uniform No. 64 and with cousin Randy in the stands, the 6-foot-5, 239-pound outfielder threw out Tomas Nido trying to stretch a third-inning single into a double after a one-hop drive off the right-field wall. Encarnacion struck out and grounded out in his first two at-bats, then came to the plate with Alcantara (7-2) trailing 1-0 in the seventh.
Seth Lugo relieved Chris Bassitt (5-5) with the bases loaded. Encarnacion got some tips from hitting coach Marcus Thames and fell behind 3-1 in the count. He took a called strike and then drove a 92.6 mph fastball 371 feet to the opposite field and over the right-field wall.
“Threw a pretty good backdoor sinker, and he just went with it,” Lugo said. “Figured staying away was a safe bet.”
Encarnacion raised his right arm in triumph while rounding first.
“He kind of showed the whole package today, from the standpoint of his defense, he runs pretty good, got the power,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I’ve always compared him, and it’s probably not even close to being fair, to Vladdy (Guerrero) Sr.”
Encarnacion became the first player since at least 1901 with a grand slam and an outfield assist in his debut. He gave the Marlins a 4-1 lead, becoming the second Miami player with a grand slam for his first big league hit after Jeremy Hermida against St. Louis pitcher Alberto Reyes on Aug. 31, 2005. The last player to achieve the feat was San Diego pitcher Daniel Camarena against Washington’s Max Scherzer last July 8.
Jon Berti tacked on an RBI single in the seventh and Jazz Chisholm Jr. a run-scoring double in the ninth.
New York, an NL-best 44-24, lost for only the second time in 12 home games. Miami stopped a three-game skid and won for just the second time in 10 games at Citi Field.
Bassitt stretched his scoreless streak to 14 innings before the seventh, when the Marlins loaded the bases on singles by 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 behind San Diego’s Joe Musgrove, allowed six hits in eight innings, struck out eight and walked one. He has pitched seven innings or more while allowing two earned runs or fewer in eight straight starts, the longest such streak since 16 in a row by Seattle’s Felix Hernandez 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 struck out a season-high nine while allowing three runs and five hits in 6⅓ innings.
Miami got the ball back from a fan for Encarnacion, who left with it tucked into his backpack. He will give it to his mom, Carmela.
He thought back to his brother, Anderson, who died three years ago.
“He told me once I was going to make it at it the major league level,” Encarnacion said through a translator. “That always was something that helped me out.”