PHOENIX -- Jose Fernandez eyed perfection on Saturday night at Chase Field.He was good -- just not good enough -- and a night that could have gone down in the record books will instead be remembered as just another 5-3 loss against the D-backs in the desert.A victory would have
PHOENIX -- Jose Fernandez eyed perfection on Saturday night at Chase Field.
He was good -- just not good enough -- and a night that could have gone down in the record books will instead be remembered as just another 5-3 loss against the D-backs in the desert.
A victory would have given Fernandez nine consecutive wins, enough to set a club record for the most consecutive starts with a win. There was also another type of history at stake.
The D-backs had zero hits, zero walks, and at times appeared to have zero chance against Fernandez as he fired 98-mph fastballs and knee-buckling breaking balls through the first 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander, who wore black long sleeves on a 100-degree night in Arizona, retired the first 17 batters he faced and struck out eight of them, no sweat.
"My fastball location was great and I was very happy with that," he said. "I was very happy with the pitch location. I am very happy about my personal outing, but the team lost, so that throws everything away. But I feel healthy and ready again."
Fernandez threw only 60 pitches through the first five innings and managed to up his consecutive scoreless inning streak to 23 along the way. And yes, he did know he was throwing a perfect game. Fernandez later admitted to feeling a little lucky at times because the D-backs hit some balls hard that were caught.
He also noticed when his pitch-type and the velocity of his pitches were no longer displayed in bright lights inside Chase Field after four innings, but said that didn't change his approach.
"He was cruising," manager Don Mattingly said. "When you see him at that pitch count in the sixth, you are thinking that you are in pretty good shape."
The sixth inning changed everything.
Fernandez struck out D-backs shortstop Nick Ahmed to start the sixth and retired D-backs starter Zack Godley to keep the perfect game intact. But D-backs center fielder Michael Bourn ruined his night with a solo home run to pull the home team within a run, 2-1. The homer marked the first of five consecutive hits and four runs in the frame against Fernandez.
"It was low and in the strike zone. He put a good swing on it," Fernandez said of the pitch to Bourn. "Those guys have a tough lineup. They can hit and they came out on top this time. It's not a big deal. We will get them tomorrow."
Fernandez was already on his way toward the visiting dugout when second baseman Derek Dietrich squeezed Rickie Weeks Jr.'s fly ball for the final out of the eventful sixth. The pitcher took off his cap and wiped his brow. He was disappointed, but he did not sulk.
"It's called baseball," Fernandez said. "I was out there trying to give my best like I always do and give my team a chance to win. [Perfect game] was not a big deal. It's just five innings."
Ichiro pinch-hit for Fernandez with one out in the top of the seventh to make the end of his night official. And in the end, he was charged with four runs on five hits in six innings. He threw 85 pitches. Reliever Mike Dunn started the seventh for the Marlins.
"That happens. That's baseball," Fernandez said. "This game is perfect. I love it."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.