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Nats Nightly: Nationals can't figure out Marlins' ace Jose Fernandez, Fish win, 3-2

After the Washington Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins last night, we talked about the trouble the Nats have had with Jose Fernandez and the late comeback that almost was in Marlins Park.

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Dusty Baker lamented the fact that Washington Nationals' hitters were chasing pitches out of the zone when he spoke during the fourth inning of the FOX broadcast of last night's game against Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins.

"If we can just stay off these bad 3-2 pitches," Baker said, "... because every 3-2 pitch has been a ball in the dirt or a couple over the head so we've just got to concentrate a little more, especially when we get to 3-2 because it looks like he's not going to throw a strike.

"When a guy throws 96-97, you don't have a whole bunch of time to make up your mind. You tend to swing at pitches that you wouldn't ordinarily swing at..." -Dusty Baker on facing Marlins' starter Jose Fernandez

Bryce Harper, Ben Revere and Anthony Rendon went down swinging on 3-2 pitches for three of Fernandez's six Ks to that point. He ended up with nine strikeouts total in six innings of work.

Fernandez earned the win in the end, in spite of a late rally by the Nationals against Marlins' closer A.J. Ramos that fell short.

Fernandez improved to (3-0) in three starts vs Washington this season, over which he's struck out 29 batters in 19 IP (13.74 K/9) while holding Nats' hitters to a .169/.267/.246 line, (6-0) in nine career starts against the Marlins' divisional rivals, over which he's struck out 72 in 55 ⅔ IP (11.64 K/9) while holding the Nationals to a combined .166/.250/.241 line, and (21-1) in 31 career starts in Marlins Park, where Miami's ace has struck out 241 batters in 197 ⅓ (10.99 K/9) while holding visiting hitters to a .185/.246/.262 line.

Baker talked about the difficulty of facing Fernandez after the 23-year-old right-hander struck out nine batters in his first start of the year against the Nationals in Marlins Park in mid-April, which saw him give up three hits, four walks and just one earned run in six innings.

"When a guy throws 96-97, you don't have a whole bunch of time to make up your mind," Baker explained.

"You tend to swing at pitches that you wouldn't ordinarily swing at because of the speed of his fastball and everything is designed to look like a fastball. That's what a slider is, it's designed to look like a fastball and by the time you swing at it then you realize that it's not and it's usually out of the zone.

"This guy, that's what he lives on. He lives on the strikeout."

Fernandez struck out 11 batters when he faced the Nats again last week in the nation's capital. He gave up four hits, three walks and one earned run in seven innings that time out.

Baker was asked if the high strikeout totals were a result of Fernandez's stuff being "electric" or of the Nationals' hitters expanding their zones and chasing pitches?

"Well, that's how he pitches," Baker said. "He throws some breaking balls over the plate and then he'll throw some off the plate. This guy, when he's healthy, he's amongst the league leaders in strikeouts. You know he's going to have some strikeouts, it's just that when we get a pitch to hit we can't really miss it because he's not going to give you a whole bunch to hit."

Fernandez didn't give the Nationals much to hit last night either, holding them to four hits total, one walk and one run in six innings as he earned his fifth straight win and his sixth win in his last seven starts.

We talked about the Nationals' struggles against Fernandez, the loss to the Fish and the Nats' late rally after last night's game: