Fernandez versus Cole

June 1, 2016
On occasion, I like to watch a baseball game and record my thoughts on the events that transpire. Partially, this is because it forces me to write something without making an Excel spreadsheet, and partially because I watch most of my baseball games, and writing these articles lets me pretend that I'm talking to someone as I waste away an afternoon. 
Today’s mid-week matchup is between the Miami Marlins and the Pirates of Pittsburgh/Pittsburg, two teams whose best shot at the playoffs is a Wild Card slot. Fortunately, the luck of the draw gives us two legitimate aces taking the bump, with Miami’s mercurial Jose Fernandez slated against the Buc’s Gerrit Cole.
I picked this game in part because the Pirates and Marlins are two teams who don’t get a tremendous amount of coverage. This year’s story lines seem to be crowded by the Cubs and Red Sox, with side-notes on Matt Harvey’s ups and downs. I'm just trying to balance the scales a little, so no one will mind when I write a dozen consecutive Red Sox articles come September. Or July.
Here we go. 
11:12 - The amazing Jose Fernandez-at-home stats are coming early: 21-1 in 30 starts at home.
11:13 – And my computer craps out, requiring a restart. I’m going to miss the first half-inning. I blame the internet cable that connects NZ to the US. This is how I understand the internet works: undersea cables. Am I right? Can I blame sharks for this? 
11:28 – Come back in time to see Marcell Ozuna batting with two runners on.
11:29 – Random thought: you could attach Gerrit Cole’s right arm to Cole Hamel’s body and call the resultant pitcher Gerrit Cole Hamels. He could pitch Games 1 and 2 in a postseason series. Pretty tough to beat.
11:30 – Ozuna flies out to strand the runners.
11:32 – Obligatory camera shot of Jose’s grandma, who comes to all of Jose’s home games. It’s hard to root against a guy who loves his grandma as much as Jose Fernandez does.
11:34 – I’m listing to the Marlins broadcast. It must be really hard to be a Marlins broadcaster, because you know that Lauria is an owner who is particularly sensitive to criticism, and pretty draconian in how he reacts to people who don’t toe the company line.
11:35 – Marlins announcer: "You could actually hear Marte’s foot hit the bag before the ball got to the glove." This probably tells you all you need to know about the crowd in Miami tonight.
11:37 – Where are the old school ballplayer chirping about the oven-mitt sliding gloves? I can imagine Rickey Henderson complaining: "Back in Rickey’s day, Rickey didn’t protect Rickey’s fingers by wearing a glove. Rickey’s fingers had to steal Rickey’s bases one at a time."
11:39 – Fernandez gets out of the inning with ease. Only one strikeout so far, but he’s having no trouble locating his pitches so far. He struggled to start the year, but he’s had a string of really terrific outings.
11:42 – I know it’s popular to mock the art-deco look of the Marlins Stadium, but I like the color contrast….the neon green and blue. I feel like I’m watching video game baseball.
11:45 – Jose Fernandez coming to bat: he’s one the rare pitcher who takes real swings.
11:46 – And…a first-pitch groundout. This feels like it’s going to be a low-scoring game.
11:46 – This year, those of us with MLB.com packages have been treated to a succession of baseball highlights during the inning breaks. These are terrific, and I can’t say enough how great they are. In years past, it’s been a steady stream of horrible commercials that you suffer through inning after inning (Carlos Beltran shilling for 5-Hour Energy drinks, por ejemplo). This year I get to see Ozzie’s walk-off dinger, and then the end of Halladay’s postseason no-hitter instead. It’s the best thing ever. .
11:50 – Cheap-o single by Harrison. Jose Fernandez seems like a tough right-hander to steal against.
11:51 – On cue, the broadcast crew tells us that Fernandez allowed something like eight stolen bases in his career, because he’s really fast to the plate. I love it when the broadcasters give us information that is pertinent to the game as it’s unfolding. Nice work, Miami broadcast crew.
11:52- John Jaso has white-guy dreadlocks. This is never a good look.
11:53 – Jose Fernandez strikes him out.
11:54 – Mike Piazza hits a mammoth homer during the break…I think it’s the post-9/11 game. Then we get Jeter’s walk-off hit in his last at-bat, complete with Michael Kay’s awkward call. Then we get the Halladay no-hitter, which ended on a terrific play by the catcher. Great highlights.
11:56 – Ichiro swats a decidedly Ichiro-esque single up the middle. Number 2962.
11:57 – These broadcasters are terrific: the play-by-play guy (Rich Waltz) isn’t afraid to ask follow-ups, and the color commentator (Eduardo Perez, I think) seems knowledgeable and goes into depth about various strategies, without pulling us away from the action.  
11:58 – Ichiro goes first-to-third on a single, with Realmuto getting into second. We’ve got a chance to see some runs here, with Yelich at the dish.
12:01 – Is it just me, or does it seem like a lot more hitters are taking first-pitches this year? I should look into that at some point.
12:01 – Yelich whiffs. That is a clutch out for Cole.
12:02 – On a grounder to third, Ichiro stays in the rundown long enough for the runners to advance to second/third. If I could have any baseball player’s skill-set for one day, I’d take Ichiro’s. It’d be really fun to be fast, with great hand-eye coordination. And he can really wing it.
12:05 – Commercial highlights: The A’s walk-off for their 20th straight (the Moneyball game). Then Bartolo Colon’s double.
12:06 – Andrew McCutchen has looked lost at the plate recently. Of course, the only at-bats that I’ve seen have come against Yu Darvish and Jose Fernandez, so that might not be an accurate sample.
12:08 – Gregor Polanco is having a good year. Which does nothing to change the fact that whenever I see his name I think of ‘Polenta,’ which is gross.
12:10 – Ichiro catches a fly ball just outside the goalie’s box. Seriously, what soccer games are they playing in Miami, wherein they need to use a baseball stadium’s outfield? I didn’t think Miami was a particular hotbed for soccer.
12:12 – Fernandez strikes out Kang. Jung-Ho might be one of the most underrated infielders in baseball. He was terrific last year, and he’s been pretty damned good during his brief stint in 2016.
12:14 – Mid-inning highlights: 3-HR game by Cespedes. Ozzie’s walk-off dinger. Hosmer’s mad dash for home during the World Series. A lot to see for Mets fans.
12:16 – There’s an ad for NASCAR during the broadcast. Hot debate topic: is car racing a sport? Are drivers athletes? Is the race just a long commercial? Do NASCAR fans make it a point to use the products that sponsor their favorite drivers? So many questions.
12:16 – That half-inning by Cole took approximately fifteen second. Really quick.
12:19 – the Marlins broadcasters do a lot of Q&A by tweet, which is actually handled pretty well: it gives them a topic to address at the start of the inning, before the action starts. I usually find the social media stuff annoying, but it doesn’t seem too forced here.
12:20 – Another strikeout by Jose Fernandez. It’s worth noting that he’s on pace to break Randy Johnson’s mark for the best K/9 rate of any starter in a single season. We’re in the early goings, granted.
12:23 – The announcers point out that Jose Fernandez tends to throw harder fastballs as the at-bat progresses. His three fastball to Harrison are at 93, 95, and then 97 mph, which is kind of amazing. He’s upsetting timing without changing the pitch…by just putting a little more on it.
12:25 – We’re in the bottom of the 5th, and the game is an hour and fifteen minutes old. That is speedy.
12:26 – After a groundout, Jose Fernandez is shaking his hand in the dugout. Please don’t be injured, Jose Fernandez.
12:27 – I’m sure there are lots of reasons to have someone like Ichiro on a major league team’s roster, but how much of a profit are the Marlins going to get for Ichiro reaching 3000 hits? Do fans in Miami really care about Ichiro? And is the minimal financial benefit worth it for a young team on the low rise of their win-expectancy curve, to use an outfield spot on an old guy who isn’t helping them now?
12:29 – On cue, our mid-inning highlight: Ichiro’s 258th hit, breaking Sisler’s record. That’s sort of forgotten about, isn’t it? Ichiro was an incredible player in his prime, an absolute joy to watch.
12:32 – The ‘crowd’ interviews are a little bit depressing. I feel for everyone on this broadcast team. Do you think they casual slip their resumes into the visitor’s booths, on the off chance they get hired out of Miami?
12:34 – A 1-2-3 inning for Fernandez. This might be the quickest game I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’m a Red Sox fan, so anything under 4-and-a-half hours in length seems speedy.
12:35 – Did anyone catch that basketball game last night? Maybe it’s a stretch, but I think that Steph Curry fellow has a real future in the game.
12:37 – Do you think the Marlins will have a sell-out for the 2017 All-Star game? I bet there’ll be a few empty sections.
12:38 – I think one of the best ways to judge a team’s fans is to see how many of them show up to mid-week games. This is why I think Rockies fans are underrated: even mid-week, even when it’s cold, people go to Coors. There are no huge, empty swaths of seats. I don’t think attendance figures tell the real story: I remember a lot of ‘sellouts’ at Fenway when the park was only half- or three-quarters-full. The real measure of a fan base isn’t how many tickets are sold, but how many people show up on a given day.
12:41 – Two runners on, one out. Can we please get something on the scoreboard?
12:41 – The broadcasters are (rightly) criticizing the ump for a small strike zone, even when it benefits their team’s players.
12:42 – Cole and Fernandez were both first-round picks in the 2011 draft, Cole going #1 and Fernandez going 14th. At this point, it’s probably even money as to who has the better career going forward.  Fernandez has been better, but he’s had one more Tommy John surgery than Cole.
12:44 – Single to load the bases. One out, Chris Johnson up.
12:45 – Johnson hits a weak liner to second. Hechavarria is up.
12:46 – My spell-check doesn’t recognize ‘Adeiny’ or ‘Hechavarria’ as words. I should download the special MLB add-on to my Microsoft Word.
12:48 – And Gerrit Cole gets out of the jam. We’re still at zeros. I need to make coffee. My kids were up at 5:40 this morning. That is too early to wake up. I love my kids, but I love them a little less before dawn.
12:51 – McCutchen singles to lead off the seventh. I have to decide between the French press or making a cup of instant coffee. My wife likes having instant around because it’s easier and fewer dishes, but the burnt-smell of it reminds me of every teacher’s lounge I’ve ever spent time in. It is the taste of sadness and failed dreams.
12:52 – Double play. I’ve broken out the French press.
12:53 – Commercial break highlight: Joe Carter’s World Series winner. I love that highlight! I loved those Jays teams! Mitch Williams falling off the mound is an awesome bonus, though I think he did that on every pitch.
12:57 – Ichiro getting ready at the plate is one of the indelible images of my baseball fandom. Him and Nomar. I hope he ends the year with 2999 hits, so we can enjoy him for one more year.
12:58 – Another hit for Ichiro. He is scorching Cole’s fastballs.
12:59 – Ichiro calmly tells John Jaso that he should re-think his hair decisions.
1:00 – Runners on first and second….it’d be great if the Marlins put a run across the board here. I don’t really have a rooting interest, so I’m just cheering with Jose’s grandma. She seems like a cool lady. Probably knows her baseball, too.  
1:01 – Christian Yelich looks like he’s twelve years old. He must get carded a lot at bars and restaurants.
1:03 – Yelich singles! We have a run! We have lines on the scoreboard!  
1:04 – Barry Bonds is the Marlins hitting coach. I watched an interview with him during a broadcast last week, and he seems like he’s having a good time as a coach. His demeanor is the polar-opposite of what you’d expect from Barry Bonds: relaxed and friendly and kind of goofy. Maybe we’ve all misunderstood him.
1:06 – Realmuto scores on a wild pitch. I’m sure this is going to replay. Have I bitched about replay yet this year? The replay system is horrible. I’ll get to it in a separate article. I hate the current replay crap.
1:08 – There is a man in a monkey suit and a Marlins uniform in the stands. Is that the Marlins mascot? A monkey isn’t a Marlin, damnit! It’s not even a fish! Get your mascot game together, Marlins!
1:09 – I looked: there’s nothing on Google about the Marlins Monkey Man, though I did learn that there was a lawsuit involving a Marlins fan being injured by a shark mascot during a game. The claim seems spurious: for one, the claimant refers to herself as a ‘long-time’ Marlins fan.  
1:10 – The broadcasters show a conversation between Mattingly and Fernandez, in Mattingly and Jose hug it out, after a discussion about whether or not Jose will go back out. Mattingly might not be a great tactical manager, but his players seem to like playing for him.
1:15 – David Phelps is coming in to relieve Fernandez. The announcers don’t like this decision, and I agree with them. The Marlins have been trying to get Jose to be more efficient with his pitches, and not hit 100 pitches too early. Today he did a great job of that, and they pull him after seven. Tactically, I get it, but I think that Fernandez should’ve gotten a shot at the shutout. He’s never thrown one before.
1:19 – Josh Harrison singles with two outs. Then Phelps gets a groundout. This game is zipping along.
1:20 – Checking out the rest of the games: Jake Peavy gave up one hit and no walks in seven innings pitched against the Braves. Mookie clocked three bombs, and Xander extended his hitting streak. George Springer had four runs scored, five RBI’s. By ‘the rest of games’ I really mean ‘my fantasy team.’
1:24 – Fernandez’s next start could be a matchup against Matt Harvey. That’d be great. Maybe the Mets and Marlins can just trade them straight up. A dealing of malcontents.
 1:33 – Wilson Ramos walks the first batter of the ninth. Maybe don’t walk the leadoff hitter with a three-run lead, Ramos.
1:33 – It’s AJ Ramos. Why did I think ‘Wilson’. He’s a catcher, right? Anyway, John Jaso’s hair is up.
1:35 – And John Jaso’s Hair hits a single.
1:36 – Two on, no outs, and Andrew McCutchen is up. This isn’t a great situation, if you’re rooting for the fish. It’s really unnerving that you can still hear individual fans yelling around the ballpark.
1:37 – The Marlins super fan is now behind the plate. I didn’t even notice him until just now, which is crazy. Have I gotten so used to seeing him at baseball games that his presence no longer registers?
1:38 – And AJ Ramos walks McCutchen. Bases loaded, no outs. Jose Fernandez is on the top step of the dugout, wondering if the umps will notice if he sneaks back onto the mound.
1:40 – First pitch misses to Gregory Polenta Polanco. The seventeen fans not currently checking Instagram on their I-Phones are on the edge of their seats.
1:41 – Cornmeal hits a deep fly ball to center. Really deep. 405 foot out, gets a run across.
1:44 – McCutchen wasn’t able to tag and go to second, because Ozuna made a good throw from center. That was a BIG play. Keeps the double-play in order.
1:45 - It’d be interesting to see if McCutchen tries to steal here. I imagine that Ramos, like most closers, is relatively easy to steal off.
1:46 – 2-0 count to Kang. I think he’s going to hit a homer if this next pitch is a fastball.
1:46 – Fastball strike. Kang didn’t even swing at it. It’s like he wants to walk.
1:46 – Another fastball down the middle. Kang is probably being too patient. 2-2 count. Probably getting a changeup here.
1:47 – Gets the change, and doesn’t offer. Right down the middle. Two outs. Jose Fernandez is very animated in the dugout.
1:48 – Marte gets a first-pitch ball. I don’t know that any of these hitters have seen a first-pitch strike. The Marlins fans are finally making some noise, which is nice to see. The camera gives us a split of Jose’s reaction, which is hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Marlins game where Fernandez wasn’t pitching, so I have no baseline for what the energy is like when Tom Koehler gets a start. Probably less.
1:50 – Ramos induces a fly-out to end it, 3-1. Jose Fernandez gets the win, Ramos gets a gritty save. A hairy ninth inning extended the game, but it still comes in at 2:40, which is a terrific length for a baseball game. Great game for both pitchers, especially Fernandez, who gave up three hits (and no walks) in seven innings. We’ll do this again someday.
Dave Fleming is a writer living in New Zealand. He welcome comments, questions, and suggestions in the comments here and at dfleming1986@yahoo.com. 

COMMENTS (4 Comments, most recent shown first)

The Marlins do something interesting: they use alternating analysts.

Eduardo Perez and Preston Wilson are much better when you don't have to hear them every night. That's not a slam at them; they're both actually far better than most analysts, ex-players who are dreadful.

Rich Walz is very good. He has to grow on you, though.

6:42 PM Jun 2nd
Welcome to the Rich Waltz Fan Club. Even when they really stank, he told the truth--considering his owner, an act of admirable courage.
5:25 PM Jun 2nd
(Hey Dave, psssst! The word "alone" is missing in the first paragraph!) :-)
10:11 AM Jun 1st
Rich Dunstan
Wouldn't it be better just to call your imaginary sewn-together pitcher Cole Cole?
9:56 AM Jun 1st
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