Future staple Yelich delivers win in big league debut
Top prospect drives in two to back fellow youngster Fernandez
DENVER -- Perched at the top of Christian Yelich's locker Tuesday night were two encased baseballs, one marking his first career hit and another his first career RBI. They captured the memories of his first big league game, as Yelich went 3-for-4 and drove in two runs in the Marlins' 4-2 victory against the Rockies at Coors Field.
The Marlins expect Yelich, who got the call from Double-A Jacksonville after Monday's game and arrived in Denver on Tuesday morning, to be a centerpiece for years to come. With his mother, Alecia, cousins and friends looking on, he only heightened those expectations with three singles.
He could hardly imagine a better way to start his Major League career.
"You can think about it and dream about it all you want," Yelich said. "But going out there and actually living it and being able to be a part of something like this is pretty special and something I'll definitely never forget."
The only thing that may have stopped Yelich was Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who joked about benching him so he would not outshine the skipper's own debut.
"I actually got a little bit nervous there, because I was 3-for-3 with a home run in my Major League debut and when he got that third hit, I was like, 'Man, there's no way this guy can top me,'" Redmond said, holding back laughter. "Thought about maybe taking him out of the game."
Yelich joined Giancarlo Stanton, who homered in the eighth inning of this one, and Redmond as the only Marlins to collect three hits in their debuts.
After dropping their first three games after the All-Star break, the Marlins have taken the first two of a four-game set with the Rockies and will try to ensure a series victory Wednesday.
Down a run in the third, Yelich dropped a two-out single into right-center to score the speedy Adeiny Hechavarria from second and knot the game at 1.
An offense that snapped a 37-innings scoreless streak Monday scored two more runs in the fifth to take its first lead of the game. Donovan Solano and Jeff Mathis led off the fifth with back-to-back singles before the red-hot Hechavarria doubled into deep right to plate the first run.
Hechavarria is now batting .417 in July and has a hit in 17 of 18 games this month, a far cry form the young hitter who struggled to reach the Mendoza line as late as mid-May.
"He's getting good at-bats, big at-bats and playing great defense," Redmond said. "He's one of the best shortstops in the league, and I don't think that many people understand that or know that."
Yelich then hit a dribbler at Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, and the ball took a wild bounce off LeMahieu's upper body, allowing Yelich to reach first safely. His second RBI of the night scored Jose Fernandez, who reached on a forceout, from third.
The newcomer's splash onto the Major League scene was enough to outshine another strong outing from Fernandez, the 20-year-old All-Star. He gave up only two runs and five hits in seven innings, striking out eight in his fifth consecutive quality road start.
"People try to talk about [how] this field the ball flies out," said Fernandez, whose first trip to Coors Field included taking a dip in the fountain that sits beyond the center-field wall. "So I don't want to hear it, I want to see it fly. I just tried to do a good job, keep the pitch low. Every time you keep a pitch low, doesn't matter how the park is, most likely the ball's not going to go out as much."
Rockies slugger Todd Helton put Colorado on the scoreboard first when he launched a Fernandez fastball into the second deck in the second inning. The rookie right-hander admitted he tried to smoke a heater by the 39-year-old slugger.
"I'm thinking, 'Yeah, this guy, he's kind of old,'" Fernandez said. "I know he can hit, so maybe I got a shot to blow by him ... blow by him in the second deck. That was pretty funny, that's why when I came into the dugout, I was kind of laughing."
LeMahieu smoked a leadoff triple that dribbled around the right-field corner in the sixth, then scored on a Carlos Gonzalez groundout to make it a 3-2 game. LeMahieu also robbed the Marlins of another run in the fifth, when he caught a Stanton line drive with runners on the corners and turned the double play by catching Yelich already off the first-base bag and on his way to second.
Though the Marlins managed three runs off Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin, who allowed eight hits and struck out four in seven innings, they wasted no time building a two-run lead when the bullpen took over.
Stanton sent a 1-1 changeup from reliever Josh Outman deep into the left-field bleachers in the eighth. It was Stanton's seventh homer at Coors Field -- his second-most at any road venue -- in just just nine games in Denver.
Jake Marisnick's first big league game didn't go as smoothly as Yelich's, as he finished 0-for-4.
Reliever Mike Dunn and closer Steve Cishek allowed just one baserunner over the final two innings to secure the win for Fernandez.