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Despite series loss, Miami staff displays depth 

Hernandez fans career-high nine across five innings in finale vs. Giants
@goodforball
September 15, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- Series wins have been rare events for the Marlins during their 52-97 season. But 2020 should be much more successful for Miami if it enters next season with the quality of starting pitching that it maintained while losing two of three games to the Giants. The Marlins

SAN FRANCISCO -- Series wins have been rare events for the Marlins during their 52-97 season. But 2020 should be much more successful for Miami if it enters next season with the quality of starting pitching that it maintained while losing two of three games to the Giants.

The Marlins dropped Sunday’s series finale to the Giants, 2-1. Reliever Ryne Stanek's bases-loaded wild pitch enabled Mike Yastrzemski to score the tiebreaking run in the eighth inning. But the setback did not reflect poorly on Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez, who yielded one run and three hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out a career-high nine.

Box score

For the series, Hernandez and fellow starters Sandy Alcantara and Robert Dugger combined to allow four runs in 18 1/3 innings. That's a 1.96 ERA. They also struck out 18 batters while walking just three and allowing 17 hits.

This reflects the pitching depth the Marlins possess, since injuries slowed the rotation’s progress earlier in the season.

Alcantara has resembled a National League Cy Young Award candidate in recent weeks, working at least seven innings in six of his past seven starts. He has compiled a 2.49 ERA in that span.

Dugger has benefited from the attrition in the Marlins’ rotation, rising from Double-A Jacksonville since the beginning of the season.

Sunday was Hernandez’s turn to step forward. He allowed three hits in five innings -- his fifth career start in which he has lasted at least five innings and permitted one earned run or fewer. His lone lapse occurred in the third inning, when Mauricio Dubon pulled a home run to left field.

“The plan we were executing was working,” Hernandez said through an interpreter. “Nothing was bothering me while I was pitching.”

Though Hernandez’s fastball isn’t overpowering -- “He’s not going to wow you with velocity,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said -- it was effective when he spotted it properly.

“When I had the opportunity to throw it, I knew it was going to do some damage,” said Hernandez, 24.

A former Astros farmhand whom Miami selected in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, Hernandez has “come a long way” in Mattingly’s estimation. Hernandez humbly believes that he still has far to go in his advancement.

“Believe me, we learn every day,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been trying to work on every single detail -- my command, my slider, my changeup, everything.”

Hernandez could do nothing about the eighth inning, which began with the score tied at 1. Yastrzemski and Brandon Belt lined back-to-back one-out singles off reliever Jarlin Garcia, who was then lifted for Stanek. After Evan Longoria drew a walk to load the bases, Stanek struck out Stephen Vogt but flung an 0-1 pitch to Brandon Crawford that bounced several feet away from Marlins catcher Jorge Alfaro. That prompted Yastrzemski to sprint home. He slid headfirst at about the same time that Alfaro’s relay reached Stanek, who covered home plate. But Alfaro’s rushed toss was also in the dirt, enabling Yastrzemski to score the go-ahead run.

According to the consensus in the Marlins’ clubhouse, Stanek didn’t cover home quickly enough. “It did look like he was a tick late getting there,” Mattingly said.

Stanek admitted that he was “maybe a touch” behind where he should have been and when. He also credited Yastrzemski for succeeding with a daring dash, insisting that relatively few players would have tried to advance on a pitch that wasn’t all that far from Alfaro.

“Distance-wise, it’s not one that I would usually think somebody’s going to kick it in gear and go to the plate,” Stanek said.

However, the Giants were aware that Stanek likes to throw split-finger fastballs, which by their nature tend to skip in the dirt.

“In that situation, you’ve got to be aggressive, and [Yastrzemski] was. Waiting for a ball in the dirt,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “[Stanek] was going to throw a lot of splits. He showed that with Vogt, and when Crawford got up there, he was going to continue to throw them. That’s a pitch that can bounce away. That’s probably one of the tougher pitches to block. But [Yastrzemski] got a great jump, and we got what we call an RTI, a run thrown in. We needed it."

Interestingly, Yastrzemski joined the Marlins’ chorus regarding Stanek’s timing: "It looked like he wasn’t going to get there on time, so that’s why we were both diving at the same time, it seemed like. It worked out our way."

Chris Haft has covered the Major Leagues since 1991 and has worked for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @goodforball.