PHILADELPHIA — Marlins ace Jose Fernandez has been so dominant since his arrival in the big leagues it would be easy to take his record-breaking accomplishments for granted.
With the 21-year-old on the mound for Friday night’s series opener against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Miami felt confident in its chances to snap a four-game losing streak.
Instead, Fernandez struggled in the second shortest outing of his career in a 6-3 loss, as the Marlins (5-6) remain winless on their current road trip.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year tied a career high with eight hits allowed and surrendered six earned runs — the most in his career — in four-plus innings.
"That’s why this game is amazing," Fernandez said. "You throw two good starts, and you come up here and get your a– kicked. It’s part of it, and hopefully (I) bounce back in the next start and (we) win tomorrow."
After giving up one run over 12 2/3 innings to start the season for a miniscule 0.71 ERA, good enough for fourth in the majors, the Phillies (4-6) scored twice in the first inning off three hits.
Fernandez (2-1) needed 20 pitches and an outfield assist from Giancarlo Stanton to exit the first following a pair of two-strike RBI hits by Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown.
It was just six days earlier when the Padres mustered three hits over 6 2/3 frames last Saturday against Fernandez.
But the young right-hander rebounded in the second with a perfect frame on seven pitches.
Like most of the night, however, a lack of command did him in when Philadelphia took a 3-2 lead in the third.
He walked the first two batters in the inning and Chase Utley lined a single to right to load the bases. Fernandez then lost Ryan Howard on a full count — it was first time in Fernandez’s career he had walked in a run.
"Just an off night tonight for Jose," manager Mike Redmond said. "It just looked look he was having a tough time getting a feel for his offspeed pitches, and this wasn’t his night. Trouble commanding his fastball and breaking ball, and that’s it. We haven’t seen that."
Over his first two starts, Fernandez issued just two walks and struck out 17.
On Friday, he matched a career high with four walks and didn’t record his first strikeout until his 50th pitch — a high fastball — to retire Byrd. Fernandez limited the damage by fanning the next two batters, and then struck out the side in the fourth.
But four consecutive hits and three runs to open the fifth chased Fernandez out of the game. Of his 87 pitches, 52 went for strikes.
"I don’t think I made good pitches with those strikeouts either," Fernandez said. "They were swinging at high pitches. I was just trying to fight out there and give my team a chance to win, but obviously it didn’t happen.
"I wasn’t throwing the fastball for a strike and not locating it. It’s a perfect pitch to hit, it doesn’t matter how hard it is. If it’s up, it’s a beautiful pitch to hit."
During his postgame news conference, Fernandez mentioned his next start several times and how he was looking forward to Sunday’s bullpen session.
One positive he did take away from his performance is the way he handled it. He noted the third start of his career in Cincinnati when he lasted just four innings and gave up five runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks.
"Obviously you’re upset, but I think I got a little more experience now," Fernandez said. "It already happened to me once, so I know how to react to it. I’m not going crazy like last year."
Friday’s outing was his shortest since May 27, 2013 against the Rays. It also snapped his streak of 20 consecutive games of three runs or fewer allowed, dating back to that loss.
Remarkably, Fernandez entered the game with a 2.09 ERA through his first 30 major-league starts. According to STATS LLC, that’s the lowest number by any pitcher since Orel Hershiser had a 2.07 ERA in 1984-85. Since 1914, only four pitchers had a lower ERA.
"We’re talking about a lot of starts where he’s been pretty good, and you could see him grinding and competing out there right up to the last pitch," Redmond said. "That’s what makes him special.
"It’s like anything, you go out there and learn from starts like this and move on. That’s really it. … I’m not worried about Jose. He’s going to be just fine."