Taxing 7th terminates Jose's strong return

Taxing 7th terminates Jose's strong return

MIAMI -- If his stress level was a little easier in the seventh inning, Jose Fernandez likely would have come out for the eighth on Tuesday night. What might have happened is up for speculation after the Marlins watched a late lead slip away in a 3-2 loss to the Braves in 10 innings at Marlins Park.

The reality manager Don Mattingly faced was Fernandez exhausted 19 pitches to get through a taxing seventh, and at 99 on the night, the decision became an easy one to go with David Phelps in the eighth.

Once Fernandez exited, the Braves tied it on Jace Peterson's two-run homer off Phelps in the eighth inning. Peterson also drove home the winning run with an opposite-field single off Mike Dunn in the 10th.

Peterson's game-tying home run

The Marlins have dropped two straight, but Tuesday was especially tough because Fernandez was so impressive over seven scoreless innings, striking out seven while allowing just an infield hit.

To start the seventh, however, Fernandez walked Nick Markakis, snapping a string of 14 straight retired batters. The Marlins' right-hander got through the inning by striking out Erick Aybar and Chase d'Arnaud. But it took 19 pitches to do so.

"The seventh dictates the eighth," Mattingly said. "When the seventh is rough, and he has to battle, you felt like he's at the end of his rope right there. If the seventh is quick, then he gets a chance to go back out. But it wasn't, and automatically, Phelps has been our guy in the eighth every time."

Fernandez's spot in the order also was due up in the seventh. Marcell Ozuna struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat.

"I do what I'm told," Fernandez said. "I'm here to pitch as long as they let me pitch. That's what I'm going to do."

Fernandez was making his first start in 10 days because he was skipped one turn as part of his overall innings plan. The club has mapped out his season in hopes he can reach at least 180 innings and perhaps pitch into the postseason.

Fernandez stressed he would have welcomed the chance to pitch the eighth, but he's fine with the decision.

"I would never question Donnie," Fernandez said. "I believe in his decisions all the time. I'm here to help this team to win every five days or when I get the chance."

In the first inning, Fernandez was a little rusty, and he needed 26 pitches to get through it. Markakis' infield single was the only hit he allowed all night.

From the second through the sixth innings, he threw just 52 pitches.

"That first inning was a little rough," Fernandez said. "I felt a little bit out of timing, but this is the big leagues, and you've got to make adjustments fast or you're going to be in trouble."

Fernandez also expressed his confidence in the bullpen.

"We've been playing so well and are so close to where we want to go," Fernandez said. "But it happens. Phelpsy has been throwing the ball great, the bullpen has been throwing the ball great. It happens. It's easy to look at it from the stands and say things. It's actually a little harder when you have to go out and play."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.