Jose Fernandez continues impressive return despite no decision
MIAMI — Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez may not have matched history in Sunday’s finale against the San Diego Padres, but he did reach an important milestone in a no decision.
With the Padres in town, Fernandez threw 114 pitches, striking out 10 batters over six scoreless innings in Miami’s 5-2 walk-off victory to salvage the series.
On May 9, 2014, Fernandez pitched on a mound for the last time in 13 months as he underwent Tommy John surgery a week later. The opponent? The Friars.
"I had it on my mind," Fernandez said. "I really wanted — probably a little more personal, so I really wanted to try to do my best — at least hitting."
San Diego worked his pitch count to 22 in the first but failed to get a run. Fernandez allowed back-to-back one-out singles and a two-out walk before Derek Norris popped out to short.
Fernandez, who turned 23 on Friday, preserved his shutout in the fifth by stranding a runner at third with no outs. After Alexi Amarista’s leadoff triple, he struck out James Shields, induced a shallow flyout to right against Will Venable and struck out Yangervis Solarte to end the threat.
Manager Dan Jennings elected to keep the right-hander in the game despite entering the sixth at 94 pitches. Jennings called it in the "neighborhood for about any pitcher." His ability to reach that limit, according to Jennings, is a tribute to his work in building himself back up.
"Fully confident in talking to him," Jennings said. "Jose’s a straight shooter. He’s a competitor, so you know he never wants to come out. At the same time, you could see in his face — they had a lot of foul balls off of him and he had a lot of fastballs right-arm side run away and that’s what increased his pitch count. But we’re going to use a common sense approach with him, and if he labors any part there then it’s time to get him out. But you knew where he was in just reading his eyes he was hungry to back out there for one more."
Justin Bour’s two-base error cost Fernandez eight pitches as righty Bryan Morris began warming up in the bullpen. He fanned Norris on an 84 mph curveball to end his outing on 112 pitches (74 strikes). He also walked two batters and scattered four hits.
It marked his most pitches thrown since May 4, 2014, when he tossed a career-high 114 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. A start later would be his last before Tommy John surgery. He has reached the century mark 12 times in his career over 42 outings.
Fernandez has recorded double-digit strikeouts in two of his last three starts and nine total for the second most in club history behind Ricky Nolasco’s 13. He fanned two batters in all but the third inning. Four of them came on the fastball, the other six on the curveball. Fernandez’s lone clean frame came in the second.
"I asked to go back out," Fernandez said. "I felt strong. I felt like my stuff was there. Not like I was struggling even though it was really hot. Lucky and blessed to be healthy right now. That’s all I can say."