MIAMI — Everyone understood going in that Wednesday night’s start against the Atlanta Braves would be Jose Fernandez’s final outing of a sensational rookie season.
Who knew the native Cuban’s flair for the dramatic also would produce his first career home run and the prompting of the first benches-clearing incident in his major-league career?
Fernandez pitched another gem, allowing one run and five hits in seven innings of the Marlins’ 5-2 victory against the Braves. He walked three and struck out five.
The Marlins ace improved to 12-6 with 2.19 ERA overall and an amazing 9-0, 1.19 at home. Clearly, Fernandez enhanced his candidacy for the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
But of his final seven innings of 2013, the sixth inning was a story onto itself.
Leading 4-0, Fernandez lost his shutout when Evan Gattis led off the sixth with a home run. After getting the third out, the right-hander appeared to utter a few heated words toward the Braves dugout as he walked off the field.
With two out and nobody on in the bottom of the inning, Fernandez lined his first career home run. He stood and watched as it sailed deep into the Clevelander bar.
That’s when things escalated. After admiring his shot, Fernandez rounded the bases to be greeted at home by some words from Braves catcher Brian McCann. Seconds later, both benches and bullpens emptied onto the field.
Peace was restored without any altercations.
“I had a good year and it ends up like this?” Fernandez said. “And on a day (Sept. 11) like today that’s real important for all American people, it’s just something not right. I’m embarrassed.”
Marlins manager Mike Redmond, while strongly expressing displeasure with Fernandez’s actions, said the youngster had “way more energy tonight” due to his final start and facing first-place Atlanta.
“He goes out there and he wants to dominate,” Redmond said. “He wants to have a great last show in front of his fans. His emotions got the best of him tonight. He’s gotta learn from it.
“That shows that he’s 21. And that he’s human. He’s an emotional guy and that’s a part of his game that he’s going to have to learn and get a hold of.”
Just imagine when he does.
A season that was supposed to begin at Double-A before an expected midseason call-up actually started on Opening Day thanks to shoulder injuries to starters Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. During the next five-plus months, Fernandez became one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers.
The highlight of a great season very well might have been a perfect inning in the All-Star Game, during which Fernandez struck out Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and Baltimore’s Chris Davis.
Before Wednesday night’s game, several Marlins players were seen in the clubhouse wearing black T-shirts showing “Fernandez, No. 16” on the back and “#JOSE4ROY” on the front.
When the dust settles from Wednesday night’s events in a day or two, Fernandez’s overall season’s exploits again will be the focus of ROY voters. The pitcher’s toughest competition for the rookie awars figures to be Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig.
“He was unbelievable this year,” Marlins closer Steve Cishek said. “If you ever saw a bullpen session, you knew he was going to be good. I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be something ridiculous like this. He was outstanding all year.
“It’s no surprise he finished strong. I’m really not surprised he hit a homer to cap it off because that’s all he tries to do in BP anyway.”