Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez covered his mouth with that big orange glove of his and shouted words unfit to print in English, Spanish or any tongue known to men who understand the heartache of dastardly luck.
It was a swinging bunt that did in Fernandez’s no-hit bid in the fifth inning of a 7-0 Marlins victory by a kid named Zach Walters in his Major League Baseball debut. A pinch-hitter, Walters swung out of his rookie shoes and out popped a perfect dribbler.
The ball rolled down the third-base line. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player or Bobby Jones couldn’t have putted the thing any better. All third baseman Placido Polanco could do was watch.
“It was one of those hits, but he did what he needed to do and kept us in the game,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said of Fernandez. “His day will come.”
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From there, it was just another Friday night in early September between a pair of teams enduring the grizzled end parts of tough seasons. Of course, everything feels better with Kid Fernandez on the mound. The crowd cheers louder, the hot dogs smell like steak and Fernandez’s team plays like a team with purpose. The Marlins (53-86) pounded out a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“Right off the bat — that’s the difference … and Jose was pitching,” said Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who hit his 19th homer in the eighth inning to give Miami its 7-0 lead.
Fernandez was pulled after the seventh inning with a 6-0 lead. He had nine strikeouts and walked two in his one-hit show. The swinging bunt single came after Fernandez retired the first 12 batters and 16 of the first 17. The next man up for Washington, leadoff hitter Corey Brown, grounded into a double play.
That’s when Fernandez walked off the mound with his mouth in his glove.
“I was laughing … in English,” Fernandez said with a wry grin.
Fernandez has delivered some of the best starts in the majors since the All-Star Game but noted that Friday was the first time “it came to my mind that I had a chance at a perfect game or a no hitter.”
He was perfect through 42/3 innings before walking first-baseman Adam LaRoche, who is always a tough out.
“It was another phenomenal start,” Redmond said. “It’s hard to think he was at his best but he was nasty in that game.”
Fernandez threw a 99-mph fastball past Nationals star Bryce Harper in the first. Two pitches later, Harper chased a slider in the dirt for Fernandez’s first strikeout of the game.
“There are two things pitchers know,” Redmond said. “It’s how many hits they’ve given up and how hard they’re throwing.”
The Marlins’ rookie left-hander struck out the last two batters he faced before handing over the game to the bullpen. Fernandez will pitch on Wednesday in what will likely be his final start of the season. The club has set a limit of 170 innings for the 21-year-old’s first season.
Fernandez is 8-0 at home and his big night overshadowed a big hit by Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison to right field. His 484-foot, two-run bomb in the third inning went down as the longest home run ever hit in the park. Of course, Morrison said he has hit longer in practice.
“It felt like I hit a rubber ball,” Morrison said.
Stanton’s eighth-inning homer was to left-center field and was a typical Stanton blast, which means a colossal shot that left the field at lightning speed.
“Those last ABs are the ones that keep you sane,” Stanton said.
He has 18 home runs against the Nationals since 2010, which is the most by an active player over that span. Stanton went 2 for 4 with a pair of hits and three RBI, two of which came in the first inning.
Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-5, 3.40 ERA) vs. Nationals RHP Tanner Roark (4-0, 1.19), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (3-5, 2.13) vs. Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-9, 2.85), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
The Marlins face Nationals pitcher Roark for the first time as a starter.