MIAMI: The Miami Marlins obviously play a higher order of baseball than most fans think, and never mind that their record in the National League East is 43-65.
Just ask the Indians, who lost to them in the 1997 World Series and have dropped nine out of 13 games over the course of interleague play.
That includes Friday night’s 10-0 decision over the Tribe in a game that didn’t seem that close.
Maybe that’s because the Marlins’ young starter, Jose Fernandez, just wouldn’t give the weak-kneed Wahoos a break. But you can’t blame a spirited 21-year-old for wanting to rub it in.
Actually, he couldn’t help it. In addition to a 96 mile-per-hour fastball, Fernandez showed off a nasty slider and at least one kind of off-speed pitch. He refused to get behind in the count and generally made Tribe batsmen look as if they were swinging in slow motion.
“We saw the stuff, and he put it together,” manager Terry Francona said. “Unfortunately for us, he picked this game. Fortunately for us, he pitches in the National League. He wasn’t just throwing; he was pitching. That was really impressive.”
Fernandez (8-5, 2.54 ERA) delivered eight superb innings, giving up three hits and one walk and striking out a season-high 14. Season high in this case means career best, because last year Fernandez pitched at “low” Class A Greensboro and “high” Class A Jupiter. Who needs Double-A and Triple-A?
“He’s going to be a great pitcher,” said Ubaldo Jimenez, who had the bad luck to face Fernandez. “He will be one of the best in the game.”
Fernandez is only the second pitcher to hold the Indians scoreless for at least eight innings and strike out 14 or more. It was first done by Jorge Rubio of the Angels on Oct. 2, 1966.
The Indians didn’t get their second hit until Asdrubal Cabrera doubled with one out in the seventh. Their first hit was a single by Nick Swisher with one out in the first. After that, Fernandez retired 18 of the next 19 batters.
“He threw everything for strikes,” Cabrera said. “There was nothing we could do. We tried the best we could.”
Francona called it the best he’s seen a starter pitch all season.
Maybe the hero of the night for the Tribe was Michael Brantley. He was the only player in the starting lineup that didn’t strike out against Fernandez.
It was not a good night for Jimenez (8-6, 4.18 ERA) to take the mound. Not only because he was opposed by a pitcher whose most serious threat was facing a runner on second with one out, but also because Jimenez was far from on his game.
Moreover, he got no help from his defense (read, Cabrera). Before the first inning ended, Jimenez trailed 3-0, with all the runs being unearned.
Ed Lucas started the rally with a one-out walk. Giancarlo Stanton followed with a routine ground ball to short, which was muffed by Cabrera for an error. Jimenez delivered a wild pitch that put runners on second and third, and Logan Morrison doubled to score Lucas, Stanton stopping at third.
Donovan Solano’s ground out scored Stanton, and Adeiny Hechavarria’s single scored Morrison.
Cabrera’s misplay was a key feature of the rally, but Jimenez had opportunities to stop the bleeding and kept the inning going instead.
“No excuses,” said Cabrera, who also muffed a ground ball in the second inning, but that error did not lead to a run. “Those were routine ground balls. I just missed them.”
Succeeding innings made it clear that errors or no errors, Jimenez was vulnerable. He was removed after four innings, having given up five runs (two earned), nine hits and two walks. His ineffectiveness was apparent by the number of pitches he needed to get 12 outs: 107.
Jimenez blamed most of his problems on a balky fastball.
“After the first inning I got it down a little,” he said. “But I threw too many pitches in the first inning.”
Asked about his inability to keep the Marlins in check after Cabrera’s first error, Jimenez said, “As a starting pitcher, you want to pick up your teammates, but I couldn’t do it.”
So the Tribe’s eight -game winning streak came crashing down.
The Marlins did enough damage to Jimenez, but they also took apart Matt Albers in the eighth inning, scoring five times on seven hits.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.