Fernandez can do no wrong on mound, but not running
Jose Fernandez got booed for not running out a grounder, and felt a tiny twinge of disappointment about not getting a chance to finish off what could have been his first complete game.
Everything else for the Miami Marlins’ young ace went perfectly once again Tuesday night.
Fernandez allowed two hits in eight stellar innings, Giancarlo Stanton hit a two-run homer and the Marlins opened a homestand by beating the Atlanta Braves 9-0 on Tuesday night.
"Jose did a great job," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "We needed him to go out there and log some big innings, and that’s back-to-back great starts against a great offensive team."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia also homered for Miami, which had its third-highest run output of the season in a game that took just 2 hours, 7 minutes. It was the fastest one in the majors this season, according to STATS.
Miami second baseman Ed Lucas had three hits in his season debut after recovering from a broken left hand, and Marcell Ozuna hit a two-run single for the Marlins.
Fernandez (4-1) was dominant against the National League East leaders for the second time in a week, lowering his ERA to 1.59. He struck out eight and walked two, and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 23 innings over his past three starts.
The right-hander’s numbers are eye-popping going back to early in his rookie season. Fernandez is 14-4 with a 1.52 ERA in 24 starts since June 1, with 190 strikeouts against 45 walks in 160 innings.
"Same as last time — he’s good every time," Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman said.
Braves starter Alex Wood (2-4) allowed seven runs and 10 hits, leaving after facing four batters without getting an out in the sixth. Wood and Fernandez had a memorable duel last week, combining for 25 strikeouts and no walks in what became a 1-0 Miami win that lasted 2 hours, 8 minutes.
This time, Fernandez — who got booed by some in the crowd after not running out a sharp grounder to shortstop leading off the third — needed only one run again. Miami just happened to give him eight more for good measure. The runs came in bunches during the rematch, with Miami scoring three in the third and five more in the sixth to blow it open.
"We have to figure out how to beat Fernandez," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Not everybody is Cy Young, and you still have to beat Cy Young every once in a while."
Stanton went the opposite way for a two-run homer to right in the third inning, and Ozuna’s single in the sixth was enough to chase Wood. Fernandez even added a run-scoring single later in the sixth, and Saltalamacchia connected off Braves reliever Anthony Varvaro in the seventh.
The Braves had only three right-handed batters in the starting lineup against Fernandez, looking for any way to break through against him.
It was evident early that little was going to work. Fernandez needed only 17 pitches to get his first seven outs, and ended two innings with a pair of knee-buckling 83-mph off-speed offerings.
Fernandez was even solid in the field, keeping the game scoreless with a nifty play to end the third. He came hard off the mound to field Ramiro Pena’s chopper that stopped halfway up the third base line, then faked a throw to first — which baited the Braves’ Tyler Pastornicky into taking off from third base.
Fernandez simply flipped the ball to Saltalamacchia, who put the tag on a sliding Pastornicky and kept the game scoreless. By the time Fernandez returned to the mound, he had a 3-0 lead and was rolling.
Fernandez said he and Saltalamacchia had a quick pregame meeting to go over strategy and came up with the following plan: Whatever Miami’s catcher called, Fernandez would throw.
Redmond said he considered letting Fernandez finish the game, but with a nine-run lead the manager didn’t want to take any risks in the ninth.
"I’ll get it sometime," Fernandez said of the elusive first complete game.
NOTES: Aaron Harang (3-1) goes for Atlanta on Wednesday against the Marlins’ Nathan Eovaldi (1-1). . . . To make room for Lucas, the Marlins designated INF Greg Dobbs for assignment. . . . Marlins RHP Jacob Turner (shoulder strain) will come off the DL to start Saturday at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. . . . The Braves said LHP Mike Minor (shoulder soreness) will start in Atlanta on Friday, making his season debut against San Francisco.