Miami Marlins at Cincinnati Reds game preview

Miami Marlins at Cincinnati Reds game preview

Published Aug. 18, 2016 11:00 a.m. ET

CINCINNATI -- After skipping his previous turn in the rotation, Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez continues his pursuit of the National League strikeout crown Thursday night when he faces the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Fernandez (12-6, 2.81 ERA) has 198 K's in 137 1/3 innings, second in the league behind Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, who has 211 strikeouts.

However, Miami manager Don Mattingly wants his hard-throwing 24-year old to learn how to put batters away earlier in the count, thus limiting his pitches and extending outings.

"We don't talk a lot about his strikeouts," Mattingly said. "We talk about him learning to pitch more. Keep himself in games. Keep his pitch count down. Pitch to contact. Part of that is to get early outs."


Mattingly referenced Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, whom he managed in Los Angeles. While Kershaw's strikeout totals were high, so were his innings totals.

"There's a way to do it," Mattingly said. "It can't be 3-2 strikeouts. You can't be missing 1-2, missing 3-2, then you get a strikeout. That's putting an extra one to two pitches on every batter."

Fernandez will be facing Cincinnati for the fifth time in his career. He is 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 25 innings vs. the Reds.

The Marlins skipped his last start in an effort to limit his innings. Ideally, Fernandez will be kept around the 180-inning mark.

Fernandez's fastball is common knowledge. However, his breaking ball is something hitters still are adjusting to, according to Mattingly.

"Jose's got a knack for knowing how to use his breaking ball," the manager said. "He's got a great breaking ball. He throws in the upper 90s, so you have to get going. That puts you in danger against anything that breaks late and breaks big. He's added the (changeup), which works well with his fastball."

Cincinnati is batting .269 since the All-Star break, led by first baseman Joey Votto's torrid .451 clip.

The Reds will send one of their more dependable starters to the mound on Thursday, right-hander Dan Straily (8-6, 3.75 ERA).

Straily will be making his 26th appearance of the season and 23rd start. Opponents are hitting just .215 against him, the ninth-best mark in the NL. He hasn't walked a batter in his last 16 2/3 innings and hasn't issued a free pass to a right-hander hitter since July 22.

Straily has produced quality starts in seven of his past eight starts.

Cincinnati (50-69) hopes to have all hands on deck against Fernandez on Thursday after a series of minor injuries caused regulars to miss games during the four-game series against Miami.

Center fielder Billy Hamilton missed two starts since leaving Monday's game after a pair of collisions with the outfield wall.

Left fielder Adam Duvall fouled a pitch off his left foot on Monday and was in a boot on Wednesday. It is doubtful Duvall will be back in time for the Thursday game.

"There is no fracture," manager Bryan Price said of Duvall. "He was hit on one of those spots that you don't want to be hit. We decided immobilizing it was the way to go. We think he'll be out a couple days."

Second baseman Brandon Phillips had a knee contusion but returned to the Reds' lineup on Wednesday in a big way with a pair of doubles, one of which drove in the tying and go-ahead runs, and two sensational defensive plays in a 6-3 Cincinnati win.

Miami (62-58) is looking to keep pace in the NL wild-card race. After dropping two of the first three against the Reds, the Marlins are two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals and one game back of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the chase for the second wild card.