Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig smiles during Monday’s news conference at Marlins Park in Miami.
MIAMI — Yasiel Puig entered the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse three hours before game time Monday eating a sandwich — Cuban, of course.
A few minutes later the Cuban star sat down for a news conference to discuss his first visit as a major leaguer to Miami, where he has a home. The opening question: “How do you feel being in Miami with all the Cuban food?”
“I had a Cuban feast at home last night,” Puig said through a translator. “But I’m here to play baseball.”
The rookie sensation causes a buzz everywhere he goes, even when the Dodgers visit the attendance-challenged Marlins. The teams began a four-game series Monday, with Puig facing Marlins Cuban ace Jose Fernandez in a matchup between NL Rookie of the Year contenders.
Another contender is Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched Monday for the Dodgers.
“When the season’s done, may the best player win the award,” Puig said.
Puig went 0 for 5, and Fernandez and the Marlins beat the Dodgers and Ryu, 6-2. The game drew a crowd of 27,127, the third-largest at Marlins Park this year.
“I feel happy about that many fans coming to the game to support Fernandez and me,” Puig said after the game. “I appreciate it tremendously.”
Puig began the week batting .358 with 11 home runs in 66 games, which explains his response to a question regarding what he found to be the most difficult part in making it to the big leagues.
“I haven’t found anything to be very difficult,” he said before the game.
Puig spoke before about three dozen reporters, photographers and TV cameramen for 20 minutes. As he was leaving the news conference, he was asked whether he prefers Cuban or Mexican food — a loaded question for a player with a home in Miami playing for a team from Los Angeles.
Puig came up with a diplomatic response.
“I like black beans and rice,” he said, “and tacos.”
MARLINS 6, DODGERS 2
MIAMI — Back-to-back losses have left the Los Angeles Dodgers in their worst slump in two months.
Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez combined to go 0 for 9 while their teammates managed only six hits, and the Dodgers lost Monday night to Jose Fernandez and the Miami Marlins, 6-2.
Coupled with a loss Sunday at Philadelphia that snapped a 10-game winning streak, the Dodgers have dropped two in a row for the first time since June 20-21. They fell to 25-5 since the All-Star break and lost for only the third time in their past 22 road games.
“We didn’t play bad tonight,” manager Don Mattingly said. “We didn’t make any errors. We didn’t get a whole lot of hits. We just got beat. At some point you have to say you got beat.”
The Dodgers went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and they’ve scored just 26 runs in the past seven games.
“The last few days we’ve seen some good pitching,” Mattingly said.
That includes Fernandez, who allowed only one earned run in six innings. He and fellow NL Rookie of the Year contender Puig chatted on the field during batting practice, discussing how they escaped Cuba before becoming major-league stars this season.
Then they went head to head, and Puig went 0 for 3 against the All-Star right-hander in their first matchup.
“It’s not a big deal,” Fernandez said. “It’s one game. I don’t think at all that I’m better than him. His talent is no doubt.”
They met for the first time less than two hours before the game and talked at length, a rarity for a hitter and the pitcher he’s about to face.
“We were talking forever,” Fernandez said. “I know we’re going to be incredible friends, because we actually were talking about what we went through to get here. We used to live 45 minutes away from each other. Pretty amazing.”
That adjective is used a lot lately to describe Fernandez (9-5) , who beat the Dodgers for the second time in two starts. He has an ERA of 1.64 since June 1, and at home this year he’s 6-0 in 12 starts with an ERA of 1.40.
The animated 21-year-old was especially pumped up to face the NL West leaders.
“He told me he was fired up and woke up at 6:30 in the morning ready to go,” manager Mike Redmond said. “I was a little nervous, just because with young kids you’re not sure.”
Fernandez lacked his usual command, walking two in the first inning, and threw 109 pitches. But he struck out eight and allowed only four hits.
“He’s a tremendous pitcher,” Puig said through a translator. “He knew how to mix his pitches and was able to dominate.”
Fernandez also had the Marlins’ first hit and scored the game’s first run from first base on a two-out double by Christian Yelich.
“We just beat the best team in baseball,” Fernandez said. “That’s the most important part. I could have pitched a lot better, but we got the win.”
Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-4), another standout rookie, allowed three runs in 7 1-3 innings and lost for the first time in his past eight starts.
Logan Morrison doubled home a run in the seventh to put Miami ahead to stay. Giancarlo Stanton added his 15th homer in the eighth, when Miami scored three times against a bullpen that has been the best in the majors over the past month.
Three Marlins relievers closed out the victory, delighting a crowd of 27,127, the third-largest this season in Miami. Some came to see Puig.
“I feel happy about that many fans coming to the game to support Fernandez and me,” Puig said. “I appreciate it tremendously, and hopefully they will continue coming to support the Marlins players, who are doing a good job.”
Juan Uribe went 3 for 3 against Fernandez, scored once and doubled home a run. But Puig went 0 for 5, dropping his average to .351.
Ramirez, traded by the Marlins during their miserable 2012 season, drew boos each time he batted. He went 0 for 4 and struck out twice.
Los Angeles loaded the bases in the fifth on a ground single, an infield single and an error by third baseman Ed Lucas. Carl Crawford drove in a run with a groundout, but Fernandez then squelched the threat. He struck out Puig on three consecutive 97-mph fastballs, then struck out Adrian Gonzalez on a breaking pitch.
NOTES: LF Crawford and 2B Mark Ellis robbed the Marlins of hits. ... Fernandez might make only one more home start. The Marlins plan to limit him to no more than 170 innings this year. ... Miami’s Donovan Solano had an RBI single and is batting .400 with runners in scoring position. ... LHP Chris Capuano, scheduled to start Tuesday, celebrated his 35th birthday Monday.MORE IN Sports Wire
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