Jose Fernandez continued to pitch like an All-Star Tuesday night.
And the Marlins needed every bit of it while locked in a pitcher’s duel Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole.
Fernandez’s latest masterpiece did not go to waste as the Marlins finally broke through with three runs in the seventh against Cole and held on for a 3-1 victory at Marlins Park.
The Marlins picked up only their second win in their past 11 games against the Pirates.
Fernandez threw seven shutout innings, allowed only three hits and did not walk any batters as he won his seventh consecutive start.
That streak is tied with Dontrelle Willis (2003 and 2005) and A.J. Burnett (2005), whom each won seven consecutive starts, and is one short of Chris Hammond’s franchise-record eight in a row in 1993.
“I think you’re seeing a kid that is just pitching, and using all of his pitches and using his changeup and working on it all the time and working on different elements of pitching,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s good to see and he’s a fun kid to be around when you see his energy. I’m sure it might get under the skin of the other club he’s facing, but from our side his attitude toward pitching and competing is pretty special.”
Cole was pitching a shutout into the seventh before the Marlins broke through. He gave up nine hits, three earned runs, walked two and struck out four.
The Marlins stranding eight through the first six innings, leaving runners on second and third twice and failing to capitalize on a bases loaded situation in the sixth.
But in the seventh Christian Yelich’s single to right scored Ichiro Suzuki and gave the Marlins their first run to break a 15 1/3-inning offensive drought against the Pirates to that point in the series.
“Both guys were tough out there [on the mound] and we knew we were going to have to execute when we got our chances,” Yelich said. “We were able to put a couple across there in the seventh. This was big for us after a rough one last night.”
Mattingly said he originally intended to leave Fernandez, who threw 88 pitches (62 for strikes) in for the eighth, but changed his mind and brought in David Phelps after the Marlins scored three and extended the inning.
“He was going out because I wouldn’t have let him hit [in the seventh] if he wasn’t,” Mattingly said. “But when the inning went long and you had the challenge and they changed pitchers and we got a couple of runs, at that point I didn’t feel good sending him back out. I’ve seen it in the past and sometimes that long inning late can break the momentum of a pitcher.”
Ichiro picked up two hits and moved to within 37 of the 3,000 mark for his career and tied Sam Crawford for 31st on the all-time list.
J.T. Realmuto, who had three hits, scored on a wild pitch on the next at-bat and Yelich later scored on a fielder’s choice ground ball by Justin Bour that the Pirates could not turn into an inning-ending double play.
A.J. Ramos picked up his 16th save in as many opportunities and extended his streak of converted saves to 25 in a row, but not without a scare.
Ramos loaded the bases in the ninth on two walks and a single by John Jaso. Gregory Polanco, who hit a grand slam in Monday’s game, sent a ball to deep center on the next at-bat, but it resulted only in a sacrifice fly that scored the Pirates’ lone run. Ramos composed himself and struck out Jung Ho Kang looking and then induced Starling Marte to fly out to end the game.
Ramos is tied for third in the majors with Pirates closer Mark Melancon for most saves.
“I believe in A.J. no matter what and he’s proven himself to everyone on this team,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez’s six strikeouts gave him 56 for the month of May, surpassing Ricky Nolasco’s club-record 51 he threw in August of 2008.
“Oh my gosh – get behind home plate and watch it,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said when asked about Fernandez’s stuff. “It’s almost like a whiffle-ball breaking ball. And then he throws the fastball at 98 [mph], and you have to guess to hit that.”
With the victory, Fernandez improved to 22-1 at home for his career where he has compiled a 1.59 ERA.
For the season, Fernandez is 8-2 with a 2.53 ERA. During his winning streak, Fernandez has compiled a 1.60 ERA and 64 strikeouts and only 14 walks. His strikeout per nine innings ratio of 13.4 was the best in baseball entering Tuesday’s game.
After hitting safely in 11 consecutive games, Ozuna went hitless for the second game in a row and fell one hit short of the franchise record for hits in a month set by Chris Coghlan twice during his 2009 NL Rookie of the Year season. Ozuna hit .418 (46 for 110) in May.