It was a mighty struggle for pitcher Jose Fernandez on Saturday, even if the struggle lasted for just a minute.
Long before the Marlins beat the Phillies 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Fernandez helped himself with his first-major league hit, an RBI single off Cole Hamels that gave Miami a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning.
He clapped his hands as he ran to first base. Then the fun started. A jacket was brought out to him. One arm was inside out and the zipper was stuck, but the 20-year-old rookie tried to pull the jacket on over his head like a sweater.
As the Phillies calmly waited, Fernandez tugged and pulled and pushed. At one point, his head disappeared inside and an elbow flung into the air.
Finally, the crowd of 20,037 erupted in applause as the jacket slid on to reveal Fernandez’s smiling face.
“The good news is that Fernandez just got his coat off,’’ manager Mike Redmond said after the game in his first remarks to reporters.
“I think that’s really what we needed, just a couple of good laughs out there. I know it relaxed me. Hopefully it relaxed some of the guys.’’
The Marlins snapped a six-game losing streak when Chris Coghlan’s infield single off Phillippe Aumont scored Placido Polanco from third with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
But the game belonged to Fernandez, who allowed a run on two hits over six innings in his first start at Marlins Park.
Fernandez, who struck out five and walked two, became the first pitcher before the age of 21 to allow no more than one run and no more than three hits in each of his first two major-eague starts since Rudy May for the 1965 Angels.
“It was exactly what we needed,” Redmond said. “I know he was excited out there making his first start at home. He executed some great pitches against a tremendous lineup and showed great poise.”
Fernandez left with a 1-0 lead but the Phillies tied it in the seventh inning on a throwing error by second baseman Donovan Solano. It is the second time the bullpen has failed to hold a lead after Fernandez has departed.
Polanco led off the ninth with a walk and advanced to third on Greg Dobbs’ infield single. With one out, Coghlan hit a chopper that second baseman Chase Utley couldn’t handle, and Polanco scored the winning run.
In his major-league debut last Sunday, Fernandez struck out eight and allowed a run in five innings. His earned run average after two starts is 0.82.
On Saturday, he touched 97 mph in the first inning. But his off-speed pitches did as much damage.
His first two strikeouts ended with his big curveball — Domonic Brown swinging in the second and Ben Revere looking in the third. Brown struck out in his next at-bat, too, looking at a 95 mph fastball.