MIAMI — A few hours before Jose Fernandez faced Yasiel Puig on the mound at Marlins Park, the two rookie-of-the-year candidates met face to face behind the batting cage.
And as the two brightest stars in an expanding universe of Cuban defectors in the major leagues, the Miami Marlins pitcher and the Dodgers outfielder had a lot to discuss.
"It was amazing. We talked like we've been talking forever, like we've known each other forever," Fernandez said. "We talked about what we went through to get here and how we left over there. We used to live 45 minutes away from each other. Pretty amazing."
Amazing also describes what happened next, with Fernandez holding Puig and the streaking Dodgers to two runs, one earned, and four hits through six innings of a 6-2 victory.
The loss was the Dodgers' second in as many days, the first time that has happened in two months. And the six runs the Marlins scored matched the most the Dodgers have given up in one game since July 23.
But on this night, the focus was on Fernandez, 21, and Puig, 22. And with their first meeting coming at the Marlins' 2-year-old ballpark in Little Havana, the heart of South Florida's huge Cuban community, the game took on something of a playoff feel.
Fans continued streaming into the ballpark well into the second inning, swelling attendance to 27,127, the biggest crowd to see the Marlins at home in nearly four months. And although many came to see Puig, who was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts, they left talking about Fernandez, Puig and the Dodgers included.
"He's a tremendous pitcher," Puig said. "He mixes his pitches very well. Obviously, we didn't do very well today."
Added second baseman Mark Ellis, who had a single in two tries against Fernandez: "He's got a really good arm. He's got a great breaking ball. He's going to be a really great pitcher."
Fernandez didn't start out that way Monday, walking leadoff hitter Carl Crawford on four pitches, then walking Adrian Gonzalez one out later on five pitches. But he escaped that jam and retired 11 of the next 12 Dodgers, giving the Marlins time to build a 2-0 lead on consecutive two-out hits by Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Donovan Solano in the third inning.
The Dodgers tied the score with runs in the fifth and sixth innings, but Miami went ahead to stay in the sixth inning on Logan Morrison's run-scoring double, giving Fernandez (9-5) a lead he turned over to the bullpen.
Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-4), who had his personal winning streak end at six games, said that if he could have one pitch back, it would be the 1-and-0 fastball he threw to Fernandez in the third inning.
"That decided the game," he said.
For Fernandez, the victory allowed him to draw first blood in a personal, if friendly, competition with Puig.
"I was blessed to get to know him and talk to him as a friend, not as a player that I'm going against," Fernandez said. "I really like the kid, pretty humble. A lot of people wouldn't think that, but he's amazing out there and he's a great player."
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