Sizzling Jose wins 6th straight as Marlins top Rays
By Sam Blum and Andrew Astleford
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jose Fernandez's struggles in the ballpark he came to as a high schooler are a thing of the past. Fernandez struck out 12 batters and allowed only one run in Miami's 9-1 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday at Tropicana Field.
The Rays' offense was stagnant all afternoon. A Brandon Guyer homer to left in the third was the only run that Tampa Bay scored. It was also the team's only extra-base hit.
Fernandez threw 111 pitches and nine of his 12 strikeouts were swinging. On the day, the Rays struck out 16 times.
"I think this is a tough place for him, just because of the emotion of Tampa and the whole thing," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Fernandez. "So this is a place where he has to kind of pull the reins back a little bit, and that's what we've been seeing the last, probably, three, four outings -- him being able to take the foot off the gas a little bit as [opposed to] having to be always at full speed."
Drew Smyly gave the Rays six innings, but he was done in early by a pair of two-out, two-run homers. Adeiny Hechavarria blasted his to left in the second and Chris Johnson connected with one to left in the third. Both came on hanging breaking balls.
"It felt like today I had pretty good command," Smyly said. "For the most part, I thought my stuff was better than it has been in a while. Just a couple of bad pitches, just a couple of curveballs that stayed up. Not in the location I wanted them."
The Marlins added insurance runs when they started the eighth with five straight hits to open up an an 8-1 lead.
The Rays lead the all-time Citrus Series with the Marlins, 52-51.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Fine Fernandez: The talented right-hander, who attended Braulio Alonso High in Tampa, put on a show to tame the Rays' bats. Fernandez allowed one run and six hits with 12 strikeouts in seven innings. He struck out six of his last seven batters faced and eight of the final 10. It marked his first victory at Tropicana Field after going 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in his first two appearances.
"This is a place that has a really special place in my heart," Fernandez said. "There's just something about pitching here. It's really special." More >
Empty-handed: After retiring the first two batters to start the fourth, Fernandez allowed base hits to Logan Morrison and Corey Dickerson before walking Taylor Motter. Curt Casali came up with the bases loaded and the Rays down 5-1, and he popped out to first in foul territory after working the count to 2-0. More >
Miami mashers: Marlins batters had their way with Smyly, who had allowed four home runs in four May starts before Thursday. Hechavarria launched a two-run homer to left in the second inning, extending Miami's lead to 3-0. Johnson cracked a two-run shot to left in the third, pushing the Marlins' cushion to 5-0. Smyly has surrendered at least two home runs in five starts this season.
"It was a good day offensively," Marlins right fielder Cole Gillespie said. "It really felt like they were swinging the bats well and having good at-bats, and we were able to get guys on base today and come through with the hits in situations where we needed them." More >
Getting it started: Ryan Garton, a Clearwater, Fla., native, made his Major League debut in relief of Smyly. The right-hander was called up on Wednesday. His first inning was scoreless, but he allowed five straight hits and three runs to start the eighth.
"I'm sure my mom's going to be all excited that I'm on the field," Garton said. "The way I am, I'm still a little upset. I just didn't do my job."
After Casali popped out to end the fourth, Fernandez appeared to jaw at him. Casali said he wasn't sure why Fernandez was upset, but he took exception to the interaction.
"I don't know exactly what he said in that instance, but I don't really care for anybody who's staring me down like that," Casali said. "In that type of situation, you got me out, get on with it and go to the next inning."
Fernandez said his words weren't directed toward Casali.
"It was not with him," Fernandez said. "It was a tough situation for me. I fought with two balls and no strikes, and I made a good pitch and then I made another good pitch and I showed some emotion. I was like, 'Yeah!' I was really happy I got out of it. Obviously, this team you know what they can do with a bat. I heard something from the dugout. I didn't pay much attention to it, and I kept trying to do my job."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Marlins love seeing left-handers on the mound. Before Thursday, they led the National League and were second in the Majors with a .295 average against southpaws. The Red Sox paced the big leagues in the category with a .299 clip.
Corey Dickerson recorded three singles on Thursday. He had a total of one single in his last 24 games.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: Left-hander Adam Conley (3-3, 4.15 ERA) starts for Miami to open a three-game series against the Braves at Turner Field, with first pitch set for 7:35 p.m. ET on Friday. Conley has appeared against Atlanta twice with one start in his career, posting a 1-0 record with a 6.75 ERA and five strikeouts.
Rays: Right-hander Chris Archer (3-5, 5.16 ERA) starts for Tampa Bay to open a three-game series against the Yankees at Tropicana Field, with first pitch set for 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Archer is 5-2 in his career against the Yankees with a 2.25 ERA.