Ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the San Francisco Giants, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said there were three keys to success for starter Elieser Hernández — he would need to get ahead in counts, locate his fastballs and have a good handle on his offspeed pitches.
Hernández (3-5, 5.03 ERA) did all of those things on getaway day at Oracle Park, allowing just one run on three hits, but a pair of wild pitches from Ryne Stanek in the eighth broke a 1-1 tie, and coming back against Giants elite closer Will Smith in the ninth was too tall an order for Miami (52-97) in the 2-1 loss. Smith (2.95 ERA) notched his 33rd save for the Giants.
Hernández threw first-pitch strikes to 10 of the 19 batters he faced, earning whiffs on 15 of his 46 strikes, and he racked up a career-high nine strikeouts.
Asked what contributed to his dominance, the 24-year-old righty said he had a particularly effective weapon with him on the mound Sunday.
“I think it was just having fun,” he said through a translator. “I try to go out there and try to have fun and and that’s what happened today.”
Mattlingly said he was happy with Hernández’s showing in San Francisco, and he’s impressed with how far he has come.
“His slider was pretty good today, same with his fastball — he was able to get it down and up. He got in pretty good counts and he was aggressive,” he said. “Just thinking about him being a Rule 5 guy last year, to this year, it’s been a long way and he’s still a young kid.”
Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.00 ERA), in his second appearance since returning from an August 2018 Tommy John surgery, spun a gem, too, putting together a three-hit shutout through five innings.
The Giants (72-78) almost handed him the second win of his shortened season on Hernández’s sole mistake, a third-inning leadoff home run from Mauricio Dubón. But the Marlins came back against reliever Burch Smith with help from a throwing error by Evan Longoria to tie it up in the seventh and ultimately the win went to submariner Tyler Rogers (2-0, 1.59 ERA), who pitched a clean eighth.
A wild bottom of the eighth from Ryne Stanek sunk Miami’s chances, though. He came in with two on courtesy of a pair of singles allowed by Jarlin García (3-2, 2.93 ERA) and threw the first of two wild pitches to move runners to second and third. His second wild pitch came facing Brandon Crawford with the bases loaded and it scored the go-ahead run. García took the loss.
“The pitch to Crawford that I threw was really just under the zone. I’ve thrown that pitch probably 100 times this year and I’ll probably throw it 1,000 more in my career,” Stanek said. “Those are pitches that as a pitcher you make and more often than not they’re going to hit the catcher and go straight down.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Giants closer Will Smith made his first appearance since being benched with back tightness Sept. 13. San Francisco outfielder Alex Dickerson, who has been out since Sept. 4, came off the bench to pinch-hit for the Giants in the sixth.
▪ The Marlins will fly to Arizona for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks starting Monday. Right-hander Pablo López (5-8, 4.97 ERA) will take the ball for Miami against southpaw Robbie Ray (12-8, 4.30 ERA) in the series opener.