Fernandez faces adversity for first time this spring

Scoreless streak ends as ace labors through four walks against Nationals

Fernandez faces adversity for first time this spring

JUPITER, Fla. -- At some point, it was inevitable Jose Fernandez would struggle in an outing and actually give up a run.

It happened in the third inning on Saturday afternoon in the Marlins' 2-1 loss to the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium.

The 21-year-old Marlins ace had a string of 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play snapped in the third inning. Washington got on the board on Ryan Zimmerman's sacrifice fly to left field.

More than letting an opponent cross the plate, Saturday was pretty much the first time this spring Fernandez had any adversity. Fernandez's command was off, especially in the first three innings. But he ended up throwing 4 1/3 innings, and got his pitch count up to 73 (41 strikes).

Through three innings, he was at 67 pitches, with 38 for strikes.

"Not my best," Fernandez said. "I was battling a little bit through it. I gave up one run and kept the damage small. Obviously not my best day. I'm not worried about it or anything.

"I had my moments. I felt good, then my next pitch, I wasn't consistent."

In terms of pure stuff, Fernandez was electric. He was also matched against another hard-thrower in Stephen Strasburg, who was clocked between 93-96 mph. Fernandez's fastball was between 93-97 mph.

The right-hander noted he was experimenting with some things, like to No. 9 hitter Will Rhymes in the third inning. Fernandez threw him six straight breaking balls and ended up walking the Washington third baseman. Rhymes scored the first run.

If it were in the regular season, Fernandez said he wouldn't throw that many offspeed pitches consecutively to a bottom-of-the-order hitter.

"The actual stuff was there," bench coach Rob Leary said. "He didn't command and control it like he normally does."

Fernandez allowed just two hits, but he walked four and struck out four. The balls and strikes breakdown was on the scoreboard, and Fernandez noted his struggles to pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.

"I was talking with Chuck about it, that was horrible," Fernandez said. "At the end of the day, I gave up one run. Sometimes you don't have your best stuff and you're not throwing strikes. But you've got to try to keep the damage small. I was trying to get outs, no matter how. I was just trying to get outs."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter