National League Cy Young Award frontrunner Sandy Alcantara earned the win for the Miami Marlins Sunday afternoon. But the struggling team might have found its desperately needed spark from a far more unexpected source.

The Marlins will look to earn a series split Monday afternoon, when they are scheduled to visit the New York Mets in the finale of the four-game set.

Trevor Rogers (3-5, 5.87 ERA) is slated to start for the Marlins against David Peterson (3-1, 3.60 ERA) in a battle of left-handers.

Jerar Encarnacion made his big-league debut a memorable one Sunday afternoon when he hit a go-ahead grand slam — his first career hit — in the seventh inning of the Marlins’ 6-2 win.

Encarnacion is the second player in franchise history to hit a grand slam in his first major league game. Jeremy Hermida’s grand slam on Aug. 31, 2005, was also his first career hit.

Encarnacion’s grand slam was just one part of a complete performance by the right fielder, who threw out Tomas Nido trying to stretch a single into a double in the third. He is the first player since at least 1901 to hit a grand slam and record an outfield assist in his first career game. The 24-year-old also stole a base and scored the Marlins’ final run in the ninth inning.

While Encarnacion’s long-term role is still uncertain — he was recalled Friday to provide some depth while Jesus Aguilar and Jesus Sanchez are on the injured list — Marlins manager Don Mattingly was hopeful Sunday the big debut would serve as a jumping-off point for Miami, which is just 17-27 since a 12-8 start.

“You love seeing those guys do well — you see the excitement of being in the big leagues,” Mattingly said. “Especially for, I think, the older guys that have been around for a while. Not that it’s stale, but it’s day-to-day in baseball. You try to stay level, you don’t want to get too excited or too up or down. But the (older) guys, just knowing that feeling that you had when you started — you don’t ever forget that feeling.”

The loss at least temporarily cost the Mets a chance to lock up another series win. New York is 15-3-2 in series play this season and hasn’t dropped a set since losing two of three to the San Diego Padres from June 6-8.

But manager Buck Showalter was focused more on Sunday’s taut pitching matchup between Alcantara and Chris Bassitt. The Mets’ right-hander set a season high with nine strikeouts and carried a 1-0 lead into the seventh before exiting with the bases loaded. Seth Lugo then surrendered Encarnacion’s milestone hit.

“He had to pitch well in order for us to have a chance and he did,” Showalter said of Bassitt. “It’s fun to watch those two guys compete at a high level.”

Rogers didn’t factor into the decision last Tuesday when he allowed four runs over 3 2/3 innings in the Marlins’ 11-9 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. Peterson took the loss Wednesday after surrendering four runs over four innings as the Mets fell to the Milwaukee Brewers, 10-2.

Rogers is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA in four career starts against the Mets. Peterson won his lone start against the Marlins on Aug. 8, 2020, when he gave up two runs over five innings in New York’s 8-4 victory.

–Field Level Media