The veteran catcher, released last April by the Marlins, stung his former team with a two-run home run and a two-run double and Detroit rolled to a 7-3 victory at Marlins Park. The Tigers completed their two-game sweep, and Fernandez had his string of 17 straight home wins snapped.
"He's a great pitcher," Saltalamacchia said. "Any day he goes out on the mound, you've got a chance to win. He gives you a chance every time out. But it's the team that scores the most runs at the end of the game."
Despite striking out 13, one shy of his career high, Fernandez gave up five runs in 5 2/3 innings. He suffered his first loss in his 27th home start.
"Tough lineup. Those guys, any of them can do damage, big damage," Fernandez said. "I tried to make good pitches. [Catcher] J.T. [Realmuto] was calling an amazing game. They came out on top. I felt great. The result is not what I wanted. I guess we'll get ready and get going. It's a very long season. I'm not panicking, let's put it that way."
Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez made Saltalamacchia's two-run blast hold up through five innings, and Fernandez was chased with two outs in the sixth on Nick Castellanos' RBI double. In relief of Fernandez, Dustin McGowan surrendered a two-run double to Saltalamacchia, with both those runs charged to Fernandez.
For the second straight game, the Marlins were held without a run until the sixth inning. They were able to get two runs in the frame, both charged to Sanchez. Giancarlo Stanton had a sacrifice fly, and Justin Bour slapped an opposite-field RBI single off reliever Drew VerHagen.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Salty leaves Marlins bitter: Saltalamacchia was the starting catcher for all eight of Fernandez's 2014 starts, but he had never faced him as a hitter. The veteran backstop talked before the game about having to take what Miami's ace would give him pitch-wise, but he pounced when Fernandez left an 0-2 curveball up just enough for him to drive off the facing of the upper deck in right field for a two-run homer to open the scoring in the second inning.More >
Strikeouts come, but streak goes: Fernandez had his strikeout pitches going, but he also bid farewell to his MLB home win streak record. The 23-year-old set his mark of 17-0 at home in his first 26 Marlins Park starts from 2013-15. Previously, the standard was 16-0, set by Johnny Allen (1932-33) and LaMarr Hoyt (1980-82). Fernandez's ERA at home rose from 1.40 to 1.61 in 27 starts. Of his 13 strikeouts, seven were via curveball, five by fastball and one with a changeup. The 13 strikeouts were one shy of Fernandez's personal best, done twice in his career. More >
"It doesn't mean nothing. We lost, that's all I care about," Fernandez said of his home streak being snapped. "My own records, I don't really care. We lost, that's the big picture. I'm not happy about it."
Nick in time: Lost in the homecomings of former Marlins Sanchez and Miguel Cabrera was the return home of South Florida native Castellanos, who battled out of an 0-2 hole for a key RBI for the second consecutive game. This time, he fouled off a series of two-strike pitches from Fernandez before getting a hanging breaking ball, which he drove into the gap in left-center field for a two-out RBI double that chased Fernandez from the game.
Too little, too late: The Marlins broke through in the sixth inning with a pair of runs, but unlike Opening Night, when they battled from five down to force extra innings -- only to lose 8-7 in 11 -- Miami wasn't able to come back. The inning that proved costly early was the third. With Miami trailing by two at the time, Adeiny Hechavarria led off with a double, and he moved to third on Fernandez's bunt. But with one out, Sanchez retired Dee Gordon on a flyout to short left field, and Marcell Ozuna lined out to third, preventing the Marlins from trimming their deficit.
Miami threatened in the ninth inning, loading the bases after scoring a run. But Tigers closerFrancisco Rodriguez struck out Stanton to end it.
"I think the three [runs] we give up [in the sixth] is more painful than that early chance," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "You want to get every run in. Get that guy in from third. It's one of the things we talked about with this club. It's an area we have to continue to grow and get better."
QUOTABLE "You never want to open a season like this, but that's what we've got. That's the task at hand. We've got to go out there tomorrow, compete and try to get our first win. It's just two games. We've just got to keep going. We've got a long, long year ahead of us." -- Gordon, who went 3-for-5
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS If the Marlins are to contend, they'll be banking on Fernandez and Stanton staying healthy. It's been rare to have the two All-Stars in the same lineup. In fact, Wednesday was the first time Fernandez was on the mound and Stanton was in right field for Miami since May 9, 2014, at San Diego, a span of 290 games.
TIGERS LOSE CHALLENGE About the only thing that didn't go the Tigers' way over the two games was a challenge with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Detroit asked for a review of Stanton scrambling back into second base, when it was ruled he avoided Ian Kinsler's tag. First baseman Cabrera nearly caught Stanton on his aggressive turn at second base after Martin Pradobounced out to short. But after a review of two minutes and 56 seconds, the decision was that the call stands.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: The Tigers return to Detroit for an off-day before opening their home schedule with a 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Yankees at chilly Comerica Park on Friday. Jordan Zimmermann, who will become the first pitcher to make his Tigers debut starting the home opener since Mark Redman in 2002, will oppose Luis Severino.
Marlins: After a quick, two-game set at home against Detroit, the Marlins open a three-game series at Washington, beginning on Thursday at 4:05 p.m. ET. It is the home opener for the Nationals. Adam Conley makes his season debut and starts off the six-game road trip. The lefty is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA vs. the Nationals, who are going with right-hander Tanner Roark.