Marlins’ Fernandez 2-hits Braves, but still in search of first complete gane
MIAMI — Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez is a National League All-Star, Cy Young finalist and Rookie of the Year.
Yet one feat continues to elude him after 34 career starts in the big leagues: A complete game.
Fernandez pitched eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball as the Marlins cruised past the Braves 9-0 Tuesday night at Marlins Park.
For the second consecutive start, Fernandez shut down Miami’s division rivals over eight frames. He scattered two hits: a two-out double to Jason Heyward in the third and a two-out single to Ryan Doumit in the fourth.
"Obviously I didn’t want to come out," Fernandez said. "I always want to keep pitching. I thought today was going to be the day (for a complete game), but this is a team. Everybody gets their work done."
In his previous start on April 22, Fernandez three-hit the Braves over eight innings in a 1-0 win, which included tying a career-high with 14 strikeouts.
On Tuesday night, 14 of the 28 at-bats against Fernandez lasted three or fewer pitches. Six ended on first-pitch swings that put the ball in play (all but one for outs).
Aside from eight strikeouts and two walks, Fernandez induced nine groundouts and three flyouts. On just two occasions did Atlanta get runners into scoring position.
"This kid can pitch. You guys see that," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "His command’s been good, especially his last couple of starts. He’s been able to mix in breaking balls and keep them off balance.
"I think he benefited from early swings. They were pretty aggressive on him early in the game, which allowed him to keep his pitch count down."
Since the worst start of his young career in Philadelphia on April 11 — six runs on eight hits over four innings — Fernandez has not given up an earned run over 23 frames. During that three-game span, he has allowed nine hits, struck out 32 batters and walked two.
Fernandez cruised through the first two innings Tuesday, needing just 16 pitches to retire the side in order.
The 21-year-old found himself in trouble in the third, but he escaped it with some trickery.
Tyler Pastornicky walked with one out and pitcher Alex Wood failed to get down a bunt. Heyward doubled down the right-field line to put two runners in scoring position.
On Ramiro Pena’s swinging bunt down the third-base line, Fernandez saw he had no play at first and faked the throw. It fooled Pastornicky, who bolted for home. Fernandez tossed to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who applied the tag for the out.
"I was trying to get a ground ball and keep a pitch low," Fernandez said. "If I threw it to first base it was going to be a hit, so that was (infield coach Perry Hill). He always tells us that if you see a ball down the line, don’t throw because he’s probably going to be safe.
"I just ate it and looked back and he was running right by me."
Miami gave Fernandez all the run support he needed in the bottom half of the third thanks to a two-out rally.
Christian Yelich tripled to left-center and scored on Ed Lucas’ RBI single up the middle. Giancarlo Stanton followed with his eighth homer of the season, a two-run blast to right.
Based on Fernandez’s track record at home, that would be all he needed.
In 19 career home starts, Fernandez has not allowed more than two earned runs. With Tuesday’s result, his ERA dropped to 1.00 ERA at Marlins Park. He is 12-0, extending his club record for consecutive home starts without a loss to begin a career. He is the second pitcher in the modern era to go undefeated in his first 19 starts at home, joining Montreal’s David Palmer, who strung together a 21-game streak from 1979-84.
"Exactly," said Stanton, who has the most RBI (31) for a Marlin before the end of April. "We only needed one, but three would have been fine. We put up a few more and kept going."
About the only thing Fernandez didn’t do right was run out a grounder in the third that shortstop Andrelton Simmons bobbled a couple of times. It earned a few boos from the 21,992 in attendance.
But Fernandez would help his cause with an RBI single to right in his third at-bat during a five-run sixth inning.
After Doumit’s two-out single in the fourth, Fernandez retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He walked Wood with two outs in the fifth.
"Same as last time — he’s good every time," said Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who went hitless in four at-bats. "I don’t know what else you want me to say. Every pitch he’s able to throw for strikes. He’s got us two times, and we got him once."
Fernandez’s night ended when he struck out the side in the eighth, freezing Heyward on an 83-mph curveball on his 98th pitch — 73 for strikes. Carlos Marmol, who exited the April 23 game in Atlanta with a strained right hamstring, threw a scoreless ninth in his return to the mound.
"It’s alright," Fernandez said of not securing the complete game. "Hopefully I can throw one in October."