KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CBSMiami/AP) – Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez continued his march towards National League Rookie of the Year Tuesday night throwing seven scoreless innings in Kansas City.
When Fernandez exited the game, all he could do was smile and sit back to watch the rest of the game that went into extra innings.
The young right-hander had a good seat to watch Christian Yelich single home the go-ahead run with one out in the 10th inning, giving the Marlins a 1-0 victory.
“I like to pitch and everybody knows it,” Fernandez said. “I like to compete. I would have loved to stay out there pitching. I was feeling really strong today.”
Fernandez was matched by wily Royals veteran Bruce Chen, each of them allowing just three hits before they turned over the game to their bullpens.
It continued to extra innings before Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera (4-6) brushed the jersey of the Marlins’ Jake Marisnick with a pitch in the 10th. Marisnick stole second and then scored on Yelich’s single through the right side of the infield, his third hit of the game.
“Try to get a good pitch to hit and drive Jake in from second,” Yelich said. “It was hard to score runs for both teams. I knew if we could push one in we’d have a good chance to win.”
Chad Qualls (3-1) earned the win, while Steve Cishek survived a single in the bottom half of the 10th for his 25th save. Cishek has converted 20 in a row, the third-best streak in the majors behind the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel and the Royals’ Greg Holland.
The Royals, who had won 17 of their last 20, were trying to wrap up their eighth consecutive series victory. They’ll try again in the finale on Wednesday afternoon.
“Bruce was phenomenal. Fernandez was everything we had heard he was and seen on video,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It was just an old-fashioned pitching duel.”
Indeed, the game began as a matchup between a 36-year-old, soft-tossing junkballer who began the season in the bullpen and a 21-year-old, flame-throwing phenom who defected from Cuba.
Chen and Fernandez matched each other pitch-for-pitch most of the night.
The Royals left-hander allowed a leadoff single to Yelich but didn’t give up another hit until the fourth. His beguiling 84 mph fastball — the term “fastball” applied loosely — helped Chen strike out six batters and deal with three walks over his seven innings.
Otherwise, the Marlins spent most of the night popping balls into shallow center field, trudging back to the dugout and wondering why someone who couldn’t throw harder than some Little League pitchers kept baffling them with his dizzying array of floating changeups.
He lowered his ERA to 0.94 since replacing Luis Mendoza in the Royals rotation.
“I think I got a couple hits off Bruce somewhere along the way,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond, who retired as a player after the 2010 season. “Hey, a testament to him, he’s still out there making pitches and he shut us down. I hadn’t seen him pitch for a long time, but he did a great job against us tonight, and he’s done a great job for them.”
The problem for the Royals? Fernandez has been even better for the Marlins.
He allowed a single in the first and another in the second, but then retired 13 straight before a leadoff walk in the seventh. The Royals managed to get runners on first and second with two outs before George Kottaras flied out to center to end the inning.
It was the most trouble that Fernandez was in all night.
“He throws everything for strikes,” Kottaras said. “He’s got all those plus pitches to work with. He was attacking the zone. We were falling behind. He had us at his mercy for a while.”
Fernandez didn’t pick up the win, of course. He had to watch from the bench after Redmond pulled him from the game. But he still managed his sixth straight start without a defeat.
“It’s a baseball game,” he said, smiling again. “We won.”