MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez put an end to his slump in record fashion on Wednesday night, tossing seven dominant innings while striking out nine in the Marlins' 3-0 victory over the Royals, snapping their nine-game winning streak.
With his nine strikeouts, Fernandez became Miami's single-season strikeout leader, now with 213, eclipsing Ryan Dempster's mark of 209 in 2000. But Fernandez's 111-pitch outing ended with some caution as he limped off the mound with a cramp after striking out Christian Colon to end the seventh.
The Marlins remained 1 1/2 games behind the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card race, while the Royals slipped to five games behind the Orioles in the American League Wild Card standings.
"There's a lot of things we're working on, and I felt I was doing them, but that's such a tough lineup," Fernandez said. "The game plan against them, is hard. It's pretty much, don't make mistakes. Obviously, we have a lot of things to work on over the last five or six starts, but today was an improvement."
Fernandez put an end to his string of four straight starts without a win, a stretch where his ERA was 6.00 in 21 innings.
Royals starter Dillon Gee had limited the Marlins to one hit -- Fernandez's infield single in the second -- through five innings. But in the sixth, Fernandez's one-out single to center triggered a string of four straight singles, and Gee was lifted after Christian Yelich's two-run hit to right.
"We were aware," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Fernandez's abilities at the plate. "If you do your homework, you understand that he can swing the bat."
The Marlins, who dropped a 1-0 decision in the series opener on Tuesday, had gone 18 straight innings without a run before pushing three across in the sixth. Also in the sixth, Marcell Ozuna's sacrifice fly scored Martin Prado, who made a nice swipe slide, for the third run.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Jose sets record at big moment: Fernandez picked an opportune time to rewrite Marlins history. When he struck out Alex Gordon with runners on first and second in the sixth, it was strikeout No. 210 for the record. The moment was recognized on the scoreboard, but Fernandez opted to continue rather than bask in his achievement. It turned out to be a big sequence because he got Alcides Escobar to tap to third for a double play to end the threat. More >
"I saw everybody clapping. I was like, why are they clapping?" Fernandez said. "The next guy was coming up to hit. But I did look. It was a big moment for our team. Big moment for the fans. They were so into the game. It was beautiful to watch."
Near perfect, not good enough: Gee was near perfect through five-plus innings. The righty retired 16 of the first 17 batters he faced. In mowing down the Marlins through 5 1/3 innings, Gee struck out three and didn't walk a batter. But things went south with one out in the sixth. Still, Gee threw 76 pitches; 50 for strikes. More >
"I thought Dillon pitched great," Yost said. "Got to the sixth inning, gave up just the one hit. They were able to tack on three runs, but up to that point, he was fantastic."
Bullpen still streaking: Despite the loss, the Royals' bullpen combined for 2 2/3 innings of shutout relief from Peter Moylan and Chien-Ming Wang. That extended its club-record scoreless innings streak to 34 2/3.
"Bullpen's doing fine," Yost said. "They just keep coming in and doing their job; hold [the score] right there."
Hechavarria's diving catch: Mixing and matching is how Marlins manager Don Mattingly is handling a number of his positions, and shortstop is one of them. That's one reason Miguel Rojas started at shortstop in place of Adeiny Hechavarria. But for defensive purposes in the late innings, Rojas was switched to first, and Hechavarria entered at short. The move proved big in the ninth when, after Gordon singled to open the inning, Escobar blistered a sharp liner to short off closer Fernando Rodney. Hechavarria made a diving grab, and the crowd certainly took notice with a loud applause.
"That was a great play," Mattingly said. "He's had like two or three of those here. It's nice to see the fans acknowledge that play. It ends up being, instead of first and second and no outs there, we got a huge out."
"We think with the combination of [Kyle Barraclough] and A.J. [Ramos], it kind of leaves us with the best combination there. It is nice to know that A.J. is kind of more of a multiple-innings guy. This time of year, you talk about having to finish the seventh and going out for the eighth." -- Mattingly, on using Barraclough and Ramos in setup roles to Rodney
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez (9-10, 5.04 ERA) will start on Thursday at 6:10 p.m. CT in the series finale at Marlins Park. He'll be looking to rebound from his last outing, which lasted just 4 1/3 innings (six hits, four runs) against the Twins on Friday.
Marlins: Right-hander Tom Koehler, Miami's hottest starter since the All-Star break, closes out the series against the Royals on Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Koehler (9-8, 3.82) has a 1.62 ERA in his last six starts -- a span of 39 innings.