Because he was scheduled to take the mound on Saturday for the Marlins, Jose Fernandez was told by coaches before Friday night’s game to return to the team hotel and get some rest.
He refused, saying he wanted to stick around to watch.
Good thing for the Marlins he did.
Fernandez delivered a 7-5 victory for the Marlins with his pinch-hit double in the 12th inning. It helped snap the Marlins’ three-game losing streak.
“It’s always been like a dream, to play the outfield or to pinch-hit like that,” Fernandez said. “But when it actually happened I was [like], ‘Oh my gosh. I shouldn’t be doing this.’ My heart really started going faster.”
But with two aboard and two outs, Fernandez drove the ball into the gap, driving in two runs as the Marlins finally beat the Atlanta Braves. Dustin McGowan preserved the win with a scoreless bottom of the 12th.
It was a wild night with back-and-forth drama.
After Marlins manager Don Mattingly had exhausted his bench, his only option was Fernandez, the team’s best hitting pitcher.
Despite being scheduled to start on Saturday, Fernandez was forced to work the night shift after the contest lingered late into the evening.
It was a win that nearly got away from the Marlins when their newly designed bullpen blew a gasket. The new bullpen configuration created when the Marlins traded for Fernando Rodney was cruising, knifing through the Braves lineup inning by scoreless inning. And then the fourth wheel in the four-man setup fell off.
After the relay team of Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and Rodney delivered the handoff and a 5-4 lead to A.J. Ramos in the ninth, Tyler Flowers connected on a game-tying homer. It was the first blown save of the season for Ramos.
So much for best-laid plans. But it all worked out in the end.
The Marlins have struggled all season against the Braves, losing seven of the nine meetings going into Friday, but they finally managed to figure them out.
For a while, the Marlins seemed to have found a winning solution with their new pen.
Barraclough and Phelps did their part out of the bullpen, delivering two scoreless innings, before Rodney made his Marlins debut in grand fashion, working a scoreless eighth.
That left it to Ramos, who had converted 33 consecutive saves dating to last season and hadn’t blown an opportunity in 24 chances this year. But that run of success came to a sudden end when Flowers, the first batter he faced in the ninth, took him deep to tie the score.
Marcell Ozuna strengthened his All-Star candidacy by going 4 for 6 with three RBI, and the Marlins actually rallied for a win for once, overturning a 4-3 Atlanta lead with two runs in the seventh.
But it was the work of the newly constructed bullpen that was the story of the evening.
That is, until the final piece of the puzzle — Ramos — couldn’t fulfill his end of the equation.
Mattingly informed Rodney upon his arrival Friday that he would serve as the eighth-inning setup man for Ramos.
Rodney’s inclusion dropped Barraclough and Phelps down a notch in the late-inning pecking order, and the new configuration could not have worked out better.
Barraclough pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning and Phelps worked a scoreless seventh before Rodney’s Marlins debut in the eighth.
He struck out Freddie Freeman to get things going, induced a ground ball from Adonis Garcia and, after walking Nick Markakis, struck out pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder.
For the second time in as many nights, the Marlins jumped out in the first inning, with Derek Dietrich and Ozuna homering off Braves starter Julio Teheran, ending the pitcher’s streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
It just didn’t hold up.
With Justin Nicolino back up from the minors, the Braves answered with two runs in the second before taking the lead in the fifth after Nicolino gave up a leadoff walk to Teheran and a two-run homer to Chase d’Arnaud — the first of his big-league career.
But the Marlins rallied in the seventh on back-to-back RBI hits by Christian Yelich and Ozuna.
And then Fernandez rescued the Marlins in the 12th.