Jose Fernandez pitched like he never has before, and that was bad news for the Marlins, who received a rare dud from their sensational youngster.
Fernandez didn’t just take the loss in Friday’s 6-3 defeat to the Phillies.
He took it on the chin in Rocky’s hometown. Hard.
The Phillies carved him up for six runs, the most Fernandez has ever allowed in any of his 31 career starts. The Phillies peppered him for eight hits, the most he has ever surrendered. He issued four walks, equaling another one-game high.
He even walked a man with the bases loaded, something he had never done before.
It all added up to a nightmarish performance for the 21-year-old hurler, whose body language frequently indicated frustration during an outing that was out of kilter from the first inning on.
“I just didn’t have it,” Fernandez said, who blamed the outing on his inability to command his pitches and throw them for strikes.
Said Marlins manager Mike Redmond: “We haven’t seen that [before].”
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Marlins.
The last — and only — time Fernandez turned in an effort anywhere near as poor as Friday’s was on April 18 of last season in Cincinnati when he gave up five runs in only four innings. Fernandez was angry after that disappointing start.
“I think I’ve got a little more experience now,” Fernandez said. “It happened to me once, so I know how to react to it. I’m not going crazy. I’m not going crazy like last year.”
That Cincinnati start was his third of the season, just like this one was.
But Fernandez was a largely unknown quantity back then, and a shaky performance was no cause for surprise or alarm. Friday’s was a head-shaker, as Fernandez struggled to throw strikes, and those he did throw the Phillies took care of with their bats.
At least most of the time.
After being nicked for two runs in the first inning, Fernandez walked three in the third — including Ryan Howard with the bases loaded — and found himself in a 3-2 hole.
But then everything turned upside down, and Jose became Jose again.
Following the walk to Howard, Fernandez struck out six consecutive Phillies, all of them swinging.
The newfound success didn’t last, for Fernandez gave up hits to the first four batters he faced in the fifth, prompting his dismissal.
Keep in mind, Fernandez had given up only one run total in his two starts this season.
“He was kind of teetering on the edge the whole night,” Redmond said. “Just one of those nights where he couldn’t get through it. You could see him grinding and competing out there, right up to the last pitch.”
He didn’t even act himself at the plate, where he swung at the first pitch in an obvious bunting situation in the fourth. That got him a lecture from third-base coach Brett Butler, and Fernandez dropped down a sacrifice bunt on the next pitch.
Fernandez, who was pitching on an extra day’s rest, wasn’t the only starter Friday who labored. His counterpart, A.J. Burnett, was nearly Fernandez’s equal in ineffectiveness.
The former Marlin no longer hits 100 mph with his fastball, and his curve doesn’t break as sharply as it once did. Burnett served up a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich in the second, and the Marlins worked the count to run up his pitch count.
By the fifth, Burnett was on fumes. His pitch count reached triple digits and, on his 105th pitch, he remained frozen in his follow-through, apparently injured. After throwing one more pitch, the Phillies trainer came out, and Burnett returned to the dugout with him.
The Phillies announced later that Burnett had a sore groin.
Fernandez had no such physical explanation for his poor outing.
“I’m not worried about Jose,” Redmond said. “He’s going to be just fine.”