Cards get to Jose early, hang on to top Miami

Cards get to Jose early, hang on to top Miami

MIAMI -- Home runs by Aledmys Diaz and Matt Holliday led to a quick exit for Jose Fernandez. The Marlins rallied late behind Martin Prado's two-run shot. But in crunch time, reliever Kevin Siegrist got Christian Yelich to tap into a double play in the eighth that helped the Cardinals hold off Miami, 5-4, on Thursday at Marlins Park.

With the win, the Cardinals pulled even with the Marlins for the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Michael Wacha limited Miami to three runs on four hits in six innings.
 

Cardinals turn two

"You hardly ever see that against that guy," Wacha said of the run support he enjoyed against Fernandez. "He's a tough pitcher, a tough competitor up there on the mound. Guys were just putting great at-bats against him and going to work. It was fun to see."

The game took on a historical significance in the seventh inning, when pinch-hitter Ichiro Suzuki ripped a double to right off Jonathan Broxton. The hit moved the 42-year-old to within two hits of becoming the 30th player in MLB history to reach 3,000.

Fernandez made his 38th career start at Marlins Park, and for the first time, he gave up two home runs at home, with both coming in the third inning. Diaz, a childhood friend of Fernandez in Cuba, smacked a two-run shot to left, and one out later, Holliday deposited an opposite-field homer to right.

"Too many mistakes against a good team," Fernandez said. "You can't make that many mistakes against a team like that because they're gonna get you. And they did tonight. I'm not happy about my personal results. Any time you score four runs and you have your ace on the mound, you should expect to win. Honestly, that one is on me."

After falling behind by five runs in the fifth inning, the Marlins rallied back with three in the sixth on Chris Johnson's RBI double and Prado's two-run homer off Wacha. And in the seventh inning, J.T. Realmuto scored on Adeiny Hechavarria's RBI groundout to short.

Hechavarria's RBI groundout

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bragging rights: Buddies back on Eighth Street in the Cuban neighborhood of Santa Clara, Fernandez and Diaz faced each other as Major Leaguers for the first time on Thursday. Diaz earned early bragging rights with a two-run blast -- the rookie's 14th homer this season -- and an RBI double off Fernandez. It marked Diaz's 32nd multihit game and fifth three-RBI game of the year.

Diaz's RBI double

"That was a lot of fun, trying to compete against my buddy," Diaz said. "He loves competing, and so do I. I just tried to enjoy that moment. I got some good pitches, hit a fastball out the first time. Then he threw me a backdoor slider, and I just put it in play." More >

Fernandez falters at home: For just the second time in 38 home starts, Fernandez experienced a loss. The 23-year-old ace had a rough night despite striking out nine. But a rising pitch count and the homers to Diaz and Holliday in the third put the right-hander in an early hole. Even down, 3-0, Fernandez had a chance to minimize damage, but Diaz got him again in the fifth with a two-strike RBI double. Fernandez is now 26-2 with a 1.62 ERA at home.

Fernandez escapes a jam

"Obviously, we're so used to Jose being just off the charts," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Today, it looked like he got some balls in the middle of the plate. Not quite, just that jump on it, a little bit flat. If you throw the ball in the middle of the plate for Major League hitters, they're going to hit them, too." More >

Wacha has his way: Wacha retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced before running into some sixth-inning trouble. The three runs allowed forced the Cardinals to turn to their 'pen an inning later, but Wacha nevertheless pulled out his fourth straight victory. This follows a streak in which Wacha went winless over a 10-start stretch. He garnered 11 of his outs via ground balls and didn't walk a batter for the first time in a start this year.

Wacha's quality start

"I thought he was really good," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha. "I thought he had a real good fastball in the bottom of the zone. He used the top of the zone effectively. The changeup, you could tell, was very good. Not a lot of strikeouts, but a lot of ground balls. That's usually indicative of him being in the bottom of the zone."

Closing in on 3,000: The Marlins maintain they will not force Ichiro's pursuit of 3,000, and they saved the 10-time All-Star for a strategic point in the game. Ichiro pinch-hit in the seventh inning, after Realmuto's single to right. He laced a double down the line in right, and it set up Miami's fourth run. The double was Ichiro's ninth of the season. Ichiro now is two hits shy of matching Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente on the all-time list, and he's scheduled to start Friday.

Ichiro's 2,998th hit

"I like to talk to Ichiro as much as I can," Fernandez said. "Every time he comes up to hit, I feel like a kid going to a Little League game, and you're so excited and you can't wait to get there to play. It's such an honor and a privilege to be a part of the history he's making. Personally to me, he's amazing." More >

QUOTABLE
"I thought he seemed a little quiet and probably a little nervous. But as the game went on, he seemed more like himself. I just want him to get comfortable. I think it's a lot to expect him to be out jumping around like the typical Dee. But we definitely want him to be himself. I think that will come out as we get down the road a little bit." -- Mattingly, on Dee Gordon, who went 0-for-4 in his first game coming off his 80-game suspension

Gordon's ovation

"I've got a target on me. " -- Wacha, after being hit by a liner for the third time in as many starts. This one, off the bat of Marcell Ozuna, caught him on the right foot in the second inning.

Wacha gets shaken up

BALK … NO BALK
It was one of those moments you don't see very often, an overturn on a balk. But the ruling in the second inning took a run off the board for the Cardinals. After Yadier Molina's double put runners on second and third with two outs, Fernandez was called for balk, which brought Jedd Gyorko home. However, Fernandez said he did nothing wrong, Mattingly asked the umpires to consult, and crew chief John Hirschbeck spoke with third-base umpire D.J. Reyburn. They ruled no balk, and Gyorko returned to third. Fernandez ended up getting out of the jam unscathed. Hirschbeck acknowledged afterward that he made a mistake in changing the call.

Umpires reverse balk call

"D.J. called it from third, and I thought I saw him step off with his right foot," Hirschbeck said. "After watching the video, he moved his left foot first. It was an attempt to step off, but it waggled. It should have been a balk. D.J. was correct, I was wrong."

Matheny, who said he couldn't remember another instance in which a balk was overturned, argued with Hirschbeck but had no other recourse. The play was not reviewable.

"In that particular part of the game, there's no score, and we know how hard it is to get runs off that particular guy," Matheny said. "That's a big turn."

WHAT'S NEXT
Cardinals: Mike Leake draws the start for the Cardinals on Friday and will carry a career-best streak of 25 walk-free innings into it. Leake is 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA in six career starts against the Marlins and has been especially stingy at Marlins Park (0.44 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.

Marlins: Jose Urena, who has thrown well in his two starts since joining the rotation, goes for Miami on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA. In his career, Urena has made one start against the Cardinals, and he wasn't involved in the decision.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

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.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.