As expected, the Marlins and Mets paid their respect to pitcher Jose Fernandez prior to the start of Monday night’s game at Marlins Park. It was emotionally charged and very tough to watch without becoming a sobbing mess.
The stadium was as quiet as a library even before the P.A. requested a moment of silence. The Marlins’ players rubbed the chalk line, just as Fernandez used to do. The starters — sans starting pitcher Adam Conley — rallied around the pitchers’ mound. The Mets’ players poured out onto the field and removed their caps as the National Anthem was played.
Once the anthem was completed, the stadium remained quiet. The Mets and Marlins formed lines and went through hugging each player. The fans began chanting, “Jose, Jose, Jose!”
The rest of the Marlins joined the starters and they wrapped around the edge of the dirt on the pitcher’s mound. Some of them drew in the dirt with their fingers. Others rubbed dirt on their pants. Then, they huddled and Giancarlo Stanton gave a motivational speech of sorts. The players came in close and they all put their index fingers in the middle, pointed up at the sky, and broke the huddle to begin the game.
There is crying in baseball.
The Marlins’ pregame remembrance of Jose Fernandez was tough enough to watch and the emotions kept flowing in the bottom half of the first inning against the Mets. Dee Gordon, who normally bats left-handed, stepped into the right-handed batter’s box wearing Fernandez’s helmet. He took the first pitch for a ball, then switched back to batting left-handed. He took another ball, then drove a 2-0 Bartolo Colon fastball way out to right field for a leadoff solo home run.
Gordon wept openly as he rounded the bases. Marcell Ozuna, waiting in the on-deck circle, hugged him tightly as he returned to the dugout. Gordon was met with hugs from the rest of his teammates. Colon waited on the mound to allow the Marlins to take in the moment.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has been held out of the lineup for Monday night’s game against the Diamondbacks as he’s still dealing with discomfort in his left thumb. Harper slid awkwardly into third base on a triple hit on Sunday afternoon because Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang faked a tag. Harper suffered the thumb injury as a result, and the Nationals retaliated as A.J. Cole threw a fastball behind Kang in the ensuing inning, causing both benches and bullpens to spill out onto the field.
Harper underwent X-rays on Monday. Per Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post, GM Mike Rizzo said of Harper’s thumb injury, “We’re anticipating that it’s not going to be serious.”
Though the Nationals have already clinched the NL East, the club is still fighting for something of importance: home field advantage in the NL Division Series against the Dodgers. The Nationals currently hold a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for that privilege. Losing Harper, even just for a game, could turn out to be a big deal.
Harper, 23, heads into the final week of the regular season batting .244/.375/.444 with 24 home runs, 85 RBI, 83 runs scored, and 21 stolen bases in 614 plate appearances.