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Fastball gets Jose in early trouble vs. Tribe

MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Jose Fernandez was befuddled. Spotted a three-run lead in the first inning of Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field, the strong contender for the National League's Cy Young Award not only squandered the lead but put his team in a two-run hole by the third.

"They're a really good team," Fernandez said. "I was trying to battle. I don't even know. I was thinking about rolling the ball to the plate and seeing maybe who they were going to hit it to. I was trying to make a pitch, and they would hit it. Try to make another pitch, and they hit it. I got hit. I got hit hard. I got hit really hard, but you learn from it."

Full Game Coverage

CLEVELAND -- Jose Fernandez was befuddled. Spotted a three-run lead in the first inning of Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field, the strong contender for the National League's Cy Young Award not only squandered the lead but put his team in a two-run hole by the third.

"They're a really good team," Fernandez said. "I was trying to battle. I don't even know. I was thinking about rolling the ball to the plate and seeing maybe who they were going to hit it to. I was trying to make a pitch, and they would hit it. Try to make another pitch, and they hit it. I got hit. I got hit hard. I got hit really hard, but you learn from it."

Full Game Coverage

The first inning snapped a stretch of 14 consecutive scoreless frames for Fernandez, and the start wound up among the worst of the 24-year-old star right-hander's career. He surrendered a career-high 12 hits and tied a season-high six earned runs over 5 2/3 innings. Fernandez struck out five, walked two and allowed a two-run homer to the second batter of the game, Jason Kipnis.

Video: MIA@CLE: Kipnis belts a two-run homer for lead

The fastball got Fernandez in trouble early. Coco Crisp, Kipnis and Francisco Lindor led off the game with a trio of extra-base hits against heaters at 95 mph or harder. Tyler Naquin doubled the following inning against a 95-mph fastball, and he scored when Roberto Perez poked a 96-mph Fernandez fastball the other way for an RBI double.

Perhaps the biggest indicator that Fernandez was off his game was that his curveball generated just four swinging strikes in 40 pitches. For the year, batters have whiffed on more than half their swings against the breaker.

Video: MIA@CLE: Perez drives in Naquin with double to right

"They stacked that lineup with lefties, and you've got to get the ball to certain areas of the plate with them," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "But you've also got to be able to change speeds, and that's one thing I think they kept us from doing."

With the breaking ball not missing bats and the fastball getting knocked around, Fernandez found solace in his changeup, but not until the fourth inning, once much of the damage had been done. The 18 changeups thrown were tied for the sixth most in a start in Fernandez's career, according to BrooksBaseball.

"His changeup was really working today, which he really doesn't throw that much, but he decided to go to it after the first inning and throw it a little more," Crisp said.

The Marlins had high hopes with their ace on the mound to bounce back from a frustrating loss in the series opener and remain above .500.

Instead, Fernandez was effectively disarmed without his two best pitches against a lineup he called among the toughest he has faced this season, and the Marlins dropped to .500 for the first time since May 1, but they remained three games back of the second National League Wild Card spot.

"We talked about it at the break: We were six games over, and we didn't think that was going to do it," Mattingly said. "We needed to get a ways from that, and obviously we've went the other direction. So we've got to get going again."

August Fagerstrom is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cleveland.

 

Miami Marlins, Jose Fernandez