Jose Fernandez was back working up a sweat on his favorite mound Monday morning. The next time he goes out there, it’ll count.
Although Monday afternoon’s 9-1 Labor Day loss to the Milwaukee Brewers was one to forget, Marlins fans received some good news before it: Fernandez, the staff ace, said he expects to come off the disabled list and pitch Saturday against the visiting Washington Nationals.
“I don’t know how many pitches or what, but whatever it is I’ll be ready for it,” said Fernandez, who has been on the DL with a right biceps strain since his last start Aug. 7. “I still have to throw [a bullpen session] and make sure everything is fine. But the plan is to pitch Saturday against Washington.”
Fernandez threw 75 pitches in a simulated game against his teammates Monday at Marlins Park about two hours before Miami opened a three-game series against Milwaukee. Fernandez said his “command was there.”
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“It’s always great to be back out on that mound — especially that mound right there,” said Fernandez, who 15-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 24 career starts at Marlins Park.
After making his return from Tommy John surgery July 2, Fernandez made seven starts for the Marlins, going 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA. But on Aug. 7, he was yanked after throwing 76 pitches in five innings in a 6-3 loss to the Braves.
A day later Fernandez complained of stiffness in his right shoulder and underwent an MRI exam. The results showed no structural damage and he was diagnosed with a biceps strain and placed on the DL.
Saturday’s game is vital to the Nationals, who entered the day four games behind the New York Mets for first place in the National League East. The Marlins just took two of three from New York over the weekend.
“It means the world, means a lot — not only for my piece of mind, but for our team — finishing the season strong,” Fernandez said. “[I’ll know] going into next year everything is healthy and I’ll be ready to go next year. It’s really important to me.”
Marlins skipper Dan Jennings didn’t get to stick around for all of Monday’s loss.
He was ejected by plate umpire Marvin Hudson with two outs in the bottom of the seventh for arguing balls and strikes. It’s the third time this season Jennings has been tossed from a game.
“Just a little bit of a liberal strike zone for me. Felt like it was expanded down below,” Jennings said. “We had a difference of opinion and I expressed it. He did what he had to do and ran me. That’s over, we’ll be back tomorrow and hopefully our mindset in at-bats will pick up and we’ll play the kind of baseball we’ve been playing.”
Rookie left-hander Justin Nicolino’s run of stellar starts came to an end Monday when the Brewers (61-76) bashed him for five runs and knocked him out of the game after just 4 1/3 innings.
Nicolino, who pitched six-plus innings and allowed two or fewer runs in each of his previous four starts, gave up a solo home run to Khris Davis in the fourth inning before Milwaukee opened the flood gates in the fifth. Jean Segura opened the frame with a triple, Jonathan Lucroy followed with a double, and after Adam Lind doubled to make it 4-0 with one out that was it for Nicolino.
“You miss your spot, leave it up in the zone, it’s going to get hit,” said Nicolino, who is 0-3 with a 5.86 ERA in five home starts, compared with 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA in three road starts.
Jennings expects the rookie to bounce back.
“This is a pitcher’s ballpark. Nico is a pitcher. So you would think it’s just kind of a strange phenomenon here,” Jennings said. “Usually pitchers have very good success in this ballpark. He’s fine. He’s a pitcher. It was just one of those days, a couple plays there in the fifth inning we didn’t handle and it snowballed on us.”
The Marlins (57-81) scored their lone run after they loaded the bases in the fifth on three singles and Justin Bour scored on Donovan Solano’s fielder’s choice.
▪ The announced attendance of Monday’s game was 16,804, the fifth-smallest home crowd this season.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins LHP Adam Conley (3-1, 5.02) vs. Brewers RHP Taylor Jungmann (9-5, 2.42), 7:10 p.m.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (8-13, 4.08) vs. Brewers RHP Ariel Pena (1-0, 6.00), 7:10 p.m.