Fernandez had his strikeout pitch working; he struck out 13 Cubs, the fourth time he's had double-digit K's in his last nine starts. Even so, Jason Hammel matched him for the first five innings and the game went into the last of the sixth inning tied 1-1.
And after a double and a hit batsman in the bottom of the inning, it looked like the Cubs had gotten out of it on a double play, even though Kris Bryant had to double-clutch before throwing to second to make sure Ben Zobrist got to second. The play at first base was very, very close:
Unfortunately, you can see that the Marlins' challenge was correct; Adeiny Hechavarria just beat Zobrist's relay and Giancarlo Stanton, who had hit the leadoff double in the inning (that double was a laser beam, too, and was nearly caught by Jason Heyward on an excellent diving effort), scored the lead run. That would have been enough; the Marlins added a run in the seventh and three in the eighth to defeat the Cubs 6-1, winning the series three games to one. The Cubs have now lost six of seven for the first time since 2014, and dropped to 25-5 in games decided by five or more runs.
This is how fast Stanton's double got to the outfield:
There were two other challenges made in that decisive sixth inning. Derek Dietrich, who crowds the plate much the way Rizzo does, was ruled to be hit by a pitch -- but not until that play was also reviewed:
Honestly, I'm not quite sure what this review was about. It was pretty clear that the pitch hit Dietrich (on his body armor) and that he did try to turn away from the pitch. And then Joe Maddon challenged the slide Dietrich made into second base, based on the new rules about sliding into second. That one wasn't anywhere worth challenging, as Dietrich's slide looked perfectly legal.
The Cubs really had no chance in this game once that sixth-inning run scored:
Jose Fernandez threw his 2nd hardest pitch of the year today... 99.8 MPH. Averaging 95.6 MPH on his four seamer today. @Marlins— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 26, 2016
And the Marlins put the game out of reach in the bottom of the eighth after a bases-clearing double by Martin Prado off Gerardo Concepcion. It might be too early to say this definitively, but Concepcion, who had thrown well at Triple-A Iowa this year, might be overmatched in the big leagues.
The Cubs came into this game in the middle of the pack in team batter strikeouts (617; the league average is 610), but they've gotten worse at this lately, striking out in double figures in eight of their last 16 games. Again, this speaks to the absence of Dexter Fowler from the offense.
Don't have much more to say about this one. The Cubs got beat by a pretty good team this weekend, a team that can't be taken lightly and that is a legitimate wild-card contender. I'll say this: I wouldn't want the Cubs to have to face the Marlins in a playoff series, at least not the way the two teams are going right now.
And I certainly don't want to get overconfident about them facing the Reds for the next three days, either, even though the Cubs are 6-1 against the Reds, took three of four from them last time they played in Cincinnati, and the Reds have lost eight of their last 11. No matter how "good" or "bad" a major-league team is, any time two clubs step onto the field, either team can win.
It does help, of course, that the Cubs have Jake Arrieta going Monday against the Reds, who he no-hit the last time he faced them at Great American Ball Park. Ex-Cub righty Dan Straily goes for the Reds.
And we hope for better results.