MIAMI — Momentum in baseball is only supposed to be as good as a team’s next starting pitcher.
The Yankees’ starter was fine on Saturday, but the Marlins’ was lights out.
And so, a day after the Yankees put together a nine-run outburst, their momentum to a potential second straight win was cut short by Sandy Alcantara’s complete game in a 3-1 loss to the Marlins at loanDepot Park.
Alcantara has not been quite as sharp this season as he was last year on the way to winning the NL Cy Young award, but the right-hander looked plenty dominant on Saturday.
He limited the Yankees to just five singles and two walks while striking out 10 on 116 pitches.
In the process, the Yankees and their inconsistent offense took the latest ride on the 2023 roller coaster, unable to build on their win Friday in which they racked up 14 hits.
Since the beginning of July, the Yankees (60-57) have scored six runs or more 12 times.
In the next game after those 12, they are now 2-10, and they have scored four runs or fewer 10 times in that span.
The Yankees’ only run on Saturday came in the seventh inning, when Billy McKinney walked, took second on a balk and then scored on an opposite-field single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Otherwise, Alcantara cruised, setting up a rubber game on Sunday in which the Yankees will try to lean on Gerrit Cole to claim the series against the Marlins (61-57).
Using an opener for a third straight game — this one with some more significance behind it — the Yankees had Michael King start ahead of Jhony Brito.
King, whom the Yankees are hoping to stretch out over the final two months to help their thinning rotation, got into trouble early.
His first pitch was roped to right field for a single by Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Two batters later, Luis Arraez crushed a two-run home run.
After King was sharper in the second inning, Brito entered for the third and turned in a strong outing.
The rookie right-hander tossed five innings while giving up just one run and striking out six, which tied a career-high.
Because their bullpen had been getting stronger and their rotation had been getting weaker over the last two weeks, the Yankees were hoping to use their game against the Marlins as a jumping-off point for King to stretch out his workload over the final two months of the season.
That is not to say that King, a former starter, will fully return to a starting role.
There is not enough time left in the season for a reliever to build up properly to a starter’s workload, and manager Aaron Boone cautioned that the Yankees may also still need King to come out of the bullpen in a high-leverage situation every now and then.
But the Yankees are at least going to see if King can begin to offer more length than the two-inning or three-inning relief appearances he has often given them this season.
“Just feel like with some of our injuries, potentially a chance to stretch him out a little bit,” Boone said of the right-hander. “If things go well and he’s able to give us a few innings and 40 pitches [Saturday], he could be back in the mix three or four days from now.
“You probably can’t get him totally built up, especially with how we’re going to need him on a given day. But certainly trying to keep it in play.”