As he was taking batting practice before his start on Monday, Jose Fernandez stopped for a moment to chat with Yasiel Puig behind the batting cage. It was all very cordial. They posed for a couple of photos.
Two top rookies.
Two Cuban defectors.
Two different teams headed in opposite directions.
“We talked about what we went through to get here, and how we left over there, back in Cuba,” Fernandez said of his first-ever meeting with the outfielder for the Dodgers. “We talked a lot about all the players who played with us. It was really amazing.”
Two hours later, after exchanging friendly greetings, the two faced off in perhaps the most anticipated pitcher-hitter showdown in Marlins history, at least in South Florida.
Fernandez not only won the battle, retiring Puig all three times he faced him, but the Marlins knocked off the hottest team in the majors, 6-2, to hand the Dodgers back-to-back losses for the first time in two months.
“I like to compete,” Fernandez said. “I’m pretty excited how it came out. If you’re not on my team, I’m going to go out there and get you, even if it’s my mom hitting there.”
The announced crowd of 27,127 was the third-largest of the season and included 6,000 walk-ups, eager to see not only the Fernandez-Puig battle of star Cuban rookies, but a high-flying Dodgers team that had been on a ridiculously successful tear, winning 42 of their previous 51 games.
“We just beat the best team in baseball and, to me, that was the most important part,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez cooled off Los Angeles in what was yet another superb performance to add to his resume as he continues to state his case for National League Rookie of the Year laurels.
Puig is his top rival for that coveted honor. Puig went 0 for 5 Monday and struck out twice.
Fernandez retired Puig all three times he faced him. After striking him out with three pitches on his third trip to the plate — with the bases loaded at the time — Puig threw a fit inside the Dodgers’ dugout and had to be escorted up the tunnel by former Marlin Hanley Ramirez in order to calm him down.
Puig struck out again in the seventh with reliever A.J. Ramos on the mound.
Fernandez went six innings, allowing four hits while striking out eight. Three of the hits belonged to Juan Uribe, who was the only Dodger who seemed to have the 21-year-old rookie for the Marlins figured out. Uribe tied the game in the 6th with a two-out double off Fernandez.
But it would be the only earned run given up by the young phenom. The Dodgers scored their other run off him following a fielding error by third baseman Ed Lucas on a routine play. Lucas failed to make the catch after Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu dropped down a bunt and catcher Jeff Mathis made a perfect throw to third.
That left the bases full of Dodgers with no outs, and they capitalized on the miscue when Uribe scored from third on Carl Crawford’s ground ball out. But that would be all, as Fernandez struck out Puig and Adrian Gonzalez to close out the inning.
Fernandez ended up throwing 109 pitches, one more than his previous career high. Pitching wasn’t Fernandez’s only contribution on Monday. He singled in the third for the Marlins’ first hit and scored one of their two runs that inning, as Christian Yelich and Donovan Solano each drove in runs.
After the Dodgers tied it, Logan Morrison put the Marlins back on top in the sixth with his RBI double off Ryu. The Marlins had a chance to increase their lead in the sixth by loading the bases with one out, but Adeiny Hechavarria grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The Marlins blew it open in the eighth, scoring three runs on a Giancarlo Stanton home run and RBI singles by Lucas and Hechavarria.
“Stanton hit that big home run, that 2-iron, out to left,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “That was a bullet.”
Stanton’s homer, his 15th, struck the home run sculpture, bringing a roar from one of the most energized crowds of the season.
“It was definitely electric tonight,” Redmond said. “I think our guys fed off that. They were into the game, and Fernandez set the tone.”