Jose Fernandez is normally light on his feet. The rookie hurler hops across the foul line after he completes an inning and bounds out of the dugout when he is set to start another.
But there was no bounce in his step after Thursday’s fourth inning.
After coughing up four runs on four hits and a walk — by far the worst inning of his brief major-league career — Fernandez trudged across the foul line as if lead weights were attached to his ankles.
It was that kind of night for the 20-year-old, who was knocked around by the Cincinnati Reds in their 11-1 romp over the ragged Marlins at Great American Ball Park. The loss was the worst of the season for the Marlins.
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“It happens,” Fernandez said. “It happens to the best.”
Fernandez looked nothing like the highly touted hotshot who made his first two big-league outings look effortless. Such was not the case Thursday in his third start, when the Reds roughed him up rather badly. Fernandez gave up five runs on six hits and three walks.
“The big leagues are tough,” manager Mike Redmond said. “You’ve got scouts. You’ve got videos. Believe me, it’s not like he’s a secret anymore. The word is out on him. There are scouts watching, trying to figure out his patterns, trying to figure out what he throws at certain counts. Like any good pitcher, you’ve got to always be adjusting.”
So the kid is human.
The rest of the Marlins were just as fallible, if not more so. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, playing his first game in more than a week, was charged with a pair of fielding errors. John Maine, who took over in relief of Fernandez, walked five and was tagged for six runs in two innings. Toss in a pair of wild pitches — one each for Fernandez and Maine — and it was an ugly night all around for Miami.
“I don’t know that there’s a manager alive that, in a 10-1 game, says things didn’t get a little bit sloppy,” Redmond said. “So, yeah, things got a little bit sloppy.”
But it was Fernandez who had it the worst.
Fernandez had given up only one run total in his first two starts, and he looked sharp early on Thursday, too, getting through 2 2/3 innings before giving up his first hit, a Shin-Soo Choo single.
It ended up costing him.
After Choo advanced to third on Zack Cozart’s excuse-me single, Fernandez delivered a low pitch that got past catcher Rob Brantly. Brantly fielded the carom off the brick backstop, but his throw to Fernandez covering the plate was also low and Choo slid in safely.
But it was the fourth inning that proved to be Fernandez’s undoing. He gave up a leadoff single to Jay Bruce, a walk to Todd Frazier and a RBI single to Xavier Paul that Stanton overran for the first of his two errors.
Devin Mesoraco followed with a sacrifice fly, making it 3-0, and the Reds tacked on two more runs on a Choo double and Cozart single. That was it for the Marlins pitcher, who needed 79 pitches to complete four innings. Fernandez had to throw 30 pitches just to get through the fourth inning alone.
“The fastball was pretty good in the first inning, and then I started losing location with it a little bit,” Fernandez said.
Maine was even less effective. The Marlins’ long man spent an awfully long time on the mound in the fifth when he walked four (one of them intentionally) and gave up four more Reds runs. Todd Frazier’s two-run blast to center off him added even more insult to the outing.
Not even the return of Stanton helped to spark the Marlins at the plate.
Stanton singled and walked, but also struck out twice and still remains without either a home run or RBI this season. The Marlins had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings against Tony Cingrani, who was making his first major-league start, but failed to come through with a run.
The Marlins scored their only run in the fourth on Justin Ruggiano’s second home run of the season. The blast tied the score but only momentarily. The Reds went to work on Fernandez in their half of the fourth and gave the young rookie his first taste of failure.