Indians stifled as eight-game win streak ends

Indians stifled as eight-game win streak ends

Indians stifled as eight-game win streak ends

MIAMI -- The Indians held their usual advance meeting for the hitters in the hours leading up to Friday's meeting with the Marlins' Jose Fernandez. The players saw video, received scouting reports and devised a plan of attack for facing the rookie phenom.

Nothing could have prepared Cleveland for what took place at Marlins Park.

Kid Fernandez took the mound and spun the kind of stellar performance that had the Indians batters wearing out the grass between the batter's box and the dugout. Behind eight brilliant innings, Fernandez sent Cleveland to a 10-0 Interleague loss, ending the team's season-high eight-game winning streak.

"Thankfully, he's in the National League," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

The Tribe did have other problems in the opener of this three-game series.

Starter Ubaldo Jimenez labored through four innings for the Indians (60-49) and was chased from the game after fatigue set in as his pitch count crossed the century mark. The typically surehanded shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera bobbled a pair of grounders for errors, including one in the first inning that, rather than igniting a double play, jumpstarted a three-run rally for Miami.

Cleveland's biggest issue, however, was Fernandez.

The rookie owned the night.

"He's going to be a great pitcher," Jimenez said. "The poise that he has on the mound, and he's that young? He's going to be one of the best pitchers in the league if he stays healthy and keeps working hard."

That is Fernandez's plan.

"Today I'm going to enjoy," Fernandez said after dominating the Indians. "Tomorrow, I'm going to get back to work. Up here, the game will get you real quick. I don't want it to get me."

Fernandez (8-5, 2.54 ERA) finished his outing with 14 strikeouts, eight groundouts and two flyouts. The right-hander with the overpowering fastball and biting slider sliced his way through the Cleveland nine with workmanlike precision, scattering three hits and issuing just one walk within his 108-pitch performance.

Fernandez's 14 strikeouts were the most by a starting pitcher against the Indians since Zack Greinke piled up 15 on Aug. 25, 2009. Fernandez also joined Angels pitcher Jorge Rubio (Oct. 2, 1966) as the only pitcher since at least 1916 to have at least 14 strikeouts in eight or more shutout innings against Cleveland.

Not bad for a rookie who turned 21 years old on Wednesday.

"He's a pretty young kid," Francona said. "He had everything. He wasn't just throwing it. He was pitching with not a lot of effort. Velocity, breaking ball. ... You hate to say it -- you're trying to beat him -- but when it's all said and done and you look back, that was an unbelievable start."

The Marlins (43-65) reached double digits in runs and churned out 16 hits throughout their onslaught, but the three-run burst in the opening inning was all Fernandez required.

With out one, Giancarlo Stanton chopped a pitch from Jimenez to the left side of the infield, where Cabrera fumbled the roller and could not recover in time to get a forceout at second base. Instead of an inning-ending double play, the Marlins had new life.

Logan Morrison delivered a run-scoring double and Miami eked out two more runs to put Cleveland in a 3-0 hole.

Marlins Park is known for its fast infield -- an unfamiliar diamond for the American League-dwelling Tribe -- but Cabrera only blamed himself.

"I have no excuse," Cabrera said. "We lost the game right there in the first inning. That was a routine ground ball for a double play in the first inning. I just missed it."

Jimenez (8-6) had been on a strong roll of late, posting a 2.93 ERA over 12 starts heading into Friday's game. Cabrera's two errors, and the right-hander's lapse in command, forced Jimenez from the game after allowing five runs (two earned) in his four frames. The five runs were the most allowed by a Tribe starter since July 6.

"You hate to ever give anybody extra opportunities, and we did that," Francona said. "Saying that, throwing 100 pitches in four innings is too much. And the way their guy is pitching, we didn't need a reason to take the steam out. It was a tough night to pitch like that."

Fernandez established a club rookie record with his 14 strikeouts, and he became the first Major League rookie to amass at least 13 strikeouts in consecutive starts since Kerry Wood accomplished the feat for the Cubs in 1998. Fernandez's 27 strikeouts represent a franchise record for two straight outings.

"What he's done is special, man," Morrison said. "I told him in the dugout after he came out in the eighth, 'That was special.' I've never seen anything like that, personally. He's not afraid to be great."

Miami fans have been getting used to such performances.

Over his past 11 starts, Fernandez has gone 6-2 with a 1.67 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings.

The pitcher's story has also been picking up steam nationally. Fernandez defected from Cuba in January 2008, and the speedboat in which he fled took bullets from Cuban soldiers during the journey across the Gulf of Mexico. This season, Fernandez made Miami's rotation after only pitching at the Class A level a year ago.

The Indians badly wanted to beat him on Friday, but were simply overmatched.

That does not mean the club can't walk away impressed.

"I know it's a good story," Francona said. "I know he's been through a lot. Pitching in a Major League game is probably not [intimidating] in the grand scheme of things for him, with what he's been through. That was really impressive."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.