CHICAGO -- Getting to Jose Fernandez in one start is tough enough, but to do it twice in a row is almost unprecedented. But the Marlins' ace reminds us that he's only human.
The Cubs chipped away at Fernandez on Tuesday night, doing just enough damage to claim a 3-2 win over the Marlins at Wrigley Field. For just the second time in the same season, Miami's hard-throwing right-hander lost consecutive starts.
"It's called baseball," Fernandez said. "I'm not a machine. It happens."
Before Tuesday's setback at Chicago, Fernandez also dropped a 5-4 decision to the Cardinals five days ago at Marlins Park.
The only other time that occurred to the 24-year-old was in 2013, on April 18 at Cincinnati and April 23 at Minnesota. Those games marked just the third and fourth starts of his career, when he was just 20.
Fernandez bounced back that season and was the National League Rookie of the Year.
On Tuesday, he was victimized by the Cubs, particularly the top of their order. Dexter Fowler started the first inning with a triple and scored on Willson Contreras' RBI single.
Fowler and Contreras each reached all three times they faced Fernandez, who allowed eight hits and struck out eight.
"Obviously, I'm trying to do my best for my team to win," Fernandez said. "That's all I care about. I don't really care about my own results or my own numbers. I honestly don't care. I just care about us winning a ballgame and doing whatever it takes for us right now."
There was another time Fernandez lost two starts in a row, but that spanned over two seasons. He dropped a decision at Tampa Bay on Oct. 1, 2015, and came out on the losing end on April 6 of this season, losing to the Tigers at Marlins Park.
Manager Don Mattingly felt Fernandez was throwing well early, and he kept his pitch count down until a 33-pitch fifth inning.
"Good early," Mattingly said. "He threw a lot of pitches there in the fifth, and it looked like he wore down a little bit, towards the end of that inning. He threw 30-something in that inning, and that put him in harm's way."
Fernandez also was hurt by a balk in the fifth inning, which advanced Chris Coghlan to second, and he scored on Fowler's two-out, RBI single. It ended up being the winning run.
It's the second straight game Fernandez has been called for a balk. Last time out, the umpires overturned that call, but after the game, acknowledged it really was a balk.
"We think we've diagnosed it," Mattingly said. "It's something we'll work on in his next bullpen, and we've talked with him about it. We kind of think we see what's going on."
Fernandez was told he started forward before stepping off the rubber.
"This may sound funny," Fernandez said. "I felt strong today. I was making pitches. They're a good team. If you make a mistake, here and there, they're going to get you."
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.