Jose Fernandez grew up down the street from Cardinals shortstop Aledmys Diaz in their hometown of Santa Clara in Cuba.
On Thursday night, Fernandez’s childhood buddy did to him what few have managed to in a ballpark he’s thrived in his whole career.
Diaz’s two-run home run and subsequent double drove in three of the Cardinals’ five runs and handed Fernandez his second home defeat in a 5-4 St. Louis victory over the Marlins.
“You can’t make that many mistakes against a team like [the Cardinals] because they’re gonna get you,” Fernandez said. “Any time you score four runs and you have your ace on the mound you should expect to win. Honestly, that one is on me.”
Diaz’s homer was followed in the third inning by a solo homer by Matt Holliday that just barely cleared the fence in fair territory.
Fernandez allowed two home runs in an inning for the first time in his career. He had only allowed two home runs at home this season prior to that point.
“I didn’t think [Diaz’s homer] was gone, honestly, but it just kept going,” Fernandez said. “He put a good swing on it. I honestly thought I had some good pitches going. I felt strong. I felt great. They just came [out] on top [Thursday night].”
The Marlins (55-47) still nearly overcame Fernandez’s rough outing.
Chris Johnson, who entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth, singled to drive in the first Marlins run, and Martin Prado followed with a two-run homer — his fourth of the season — to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Ichiro Suzuki helped the Marlins cut the deficit to one run in the seventh with a pinch-hit double that put two runners in scoring position.
Adeiny Hechavarria’s groundout scored J.T. Realmuto from third, but Johnson struck out to end the inning.
Ichiro’s extra-base hit brought the crowd to its feet, as he moved within two of the 3,000-hit milestone for his major-league career.
“It’s such an honor and a privilege to be a part of the history he’s making,” said Fernandez, who told reporters he was cheering in the clubhouse while watching Ichiro’s double. “Personally, to me, he’s amazing. I have no words to put how I feel about him and how I feel about him as a baseball player. When you watch him it’s like watching a god come up to hit.”
Mike Dunn pitched two scoreless innings of relief, and Kyle Barraclough and Fernando Rodney each threw one.
The Marlins put a runner on base in the eighth and ninth innings but could not tie the game.
“Our bullpen did a really good job of shutting the door,” Realmuto said. “Our offense started out slow, but once we got rolling we thought we had a really good chance.”
Fernandez, who struck out nine, ran into more trouble in the fifth as Diaz did more damage, hitting a double that drove in Jeremy Hazelbaker moments after he led off the inning with a triple. Fernandez recorded two quick outs, but Matt Adams singled to give the Cardinals (55-47) a 5-0 lead.
Fernandez had some fun with Diaz early on, sharing a laugh after Diaz took a hard swing at the first pitch Fernandez threw to him Thursday night.
“The first at-bat he swung and I told him, ‘Really? You’re gonna swing first pitch like that?’ ” Fernandez said. “That swing had a lot of bad intentions on it. It was different to face him. I’ve known him since before I started walking and talking. I’m glad he’s doing well, and he’s helping his team to win. You can’t get mad at that.”
Fernandez surrendered five earned runs in a home start for the first time since his first start of the season on April 6. It was only the third time in his career that Fernandez allowed five or more runs in a home start.
His career ERA in 38 starts at Marlins Park rose from 1.47 to 1.62.
“Obviously, we’re so used to Jose being just off the charts,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “[Thursday], it looked like he got some balls in the middle of the plate. Not quite, just that jump on it, a little bit flat. If you throw the ball in the middle of the plate for major-league hitters, they’re going to hit them, too.”