SAN FRANCISCO – The Marlins hoped having ace Jose Fernandez on the mound Saturday night would help them avoid another bad start.
It didn’t matter to the Giants, who tagged him for two runs in the first and fourth innings on their way to handing the Marlins a 7-2 defeat at AT&T Park.
"The Giants are a pretty good team and everybody knows that," Fernandez said. "They did a great job. We tried to fight, but sadly they got it this time."
Fernandez experienced his highs and lows during his fourth start of the young season.
The Marlins (5-11) could not overcome the damage and lost their second game in a row and eighth in their past 10 games after falling behind in the first two innings of a game for the eighth time this season.
They are 1-7 when that happens.
Fernandez gave up four earned runs during a six-inning, 104-pitch effort.
His velocity looked sharp as he consistently hit 95-96 mph with his fastball and struck out five, but he walked three (one intentional) and gave up seven hits as the Giants continually drew out lengthy at-bats and put the ball in play at key points.
Fernandez entered the game with the best strikeouts per nine innings ratio in the majors (14.6).
"I was trying to make pitches and throw it where Mathis wanted it," Fernandez said. "I thought we had a good game plan. I made a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on it. It’s something to continue to work on. There’s a lot of baseball still left."
Christian Yelich continued his torrid start reaching base for the 16th consecutive game to start the season with a walk and a single. Justin Bour had three hits and an RBI.
But the Giants put the game out of reach scoring three more runs off the Marlins’ bullpen. Craig Breslow gave up two runs on four hits in one-third of an inning and later Cody Ege gave up a run in the eighth in his major league debut after being called up Saturday.
"We didn’t really do enough obviously," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We kind of scrambled to get it back to 2-1 and those two runs kind of hurt us. That’s why they’re so good. That’s where we have to keep fighting for those runs."
Fernandez was hoping to get off to a better start than he had in his three previous outings this season, and be more economical with his pitches early.
But in his first career start in San Francisco, Fernandez fell behind quickly during a 32-pitch first inning that left the Marlins trying to catch up the rest of the game.
After striking out Denard Span to open the game, Fernandez gave up three straight singles to Joe Panik, Matt Duffy and finally Buster Posey, who smacked a 96-mph fastball into right field to score Panik. Posey worked a full count and fouled off four pitches during a nine-pitch at-bat. Brandon Belt followed by belting a changeup to the warning track in left field for a sacrifice fly that scored Duffy.
"I knew the pitch count was getting high and I was trying to limit the damage in the first inning and keep my guys in the ball game," Fernandez said. "After that I just wanted quick outs and give our guys a chance."
Fernandez was effective at the plate going 2 for 2 and scored the Marlins’ first run on a triple by Ozuna. But a great defensive play by his counterpart Jake Peavy robbed Yelich of a game-tying infield single. Peavy came off the mound to his right to quickly field a slow roller off the bat of Yelich, and in one fluid motion, slid, came up and threw him out to end the inning and strand Ozuna at third.
After a couple of quicker innings, Fernandez ran into more trouble in the fourth after a close pitch inside that he thought was a strike resulted in a walk to Belt. Hunter Pence followed with a double down the right field line.
Fernandez bounced back by striking out Crawford and then intentionally walked Gregor Blanco to face Peavy with a potential force out at every base.
The strategy didn’t work as Peavy lined a single to left to bring home Belt and Pence, which proved to be the decisive hit in the game. Fernandez threw a combined 16 pitches over his final two innings, but the Marlins couldn’t draw any closer after cutting the deficit to 4-2 on Derek Dietrich’s double in the sixth.
"That’s who [the Giants] are," Mattingly said. "They’re a team that puts the ball in play and don’t strike out much. You have to battle to get your outs with them."