Even without his best, Jose Fernandez remains unblemished at Marlins Park
MIAMI -- Six innings. Four hits. One earned run. Four walks. Five strikeouts. Ninety-nine pitches (62 strikes).
For many major-league pitchers, that stat line not only constitutes a quality start but also an impressive performance to give his team a chance to win a ballgame.
Even on an off night -- by his standards -- Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez overcame uncharacteristic command issues as his ballclub beat the Washington Nationals 4-1 on Tuesday night.
"Try to make good pitches and get lucky I guess and hopefully the defense plays the way it did," Fernandez said of how he compensates. "I did a really good job. I'm really excited about the way that I play. Really happy that we got a win. It was a tough one. I tried my best out there. Obviously it wasn't my best. It gives me a lot of things to work for my next start, so looking forward to that next one, too."
In his return from Tommy John surgery, Fernandez had walked just three batters over 26 innings in four outings.
After a clean first -- his only perfect inning of the evening -- Fernandez issued a free pass in each of the following four frames. It marked the fifth time he had walked four batters over 41 career appearances. The wildness spiked his pitch count, preventing him from going into the seventh for the third time in five outings. His five strikeouts were a season low.
And yet, he made pitches when he needed to. With the bases loaded in the fifth after a pair of singles and a walk, Fernandez induced a pivotal inning-ending double play off the bat of Jayson Werth with an 89 mph changeup.
"Ninety-nine pitches through six innings, obviously he didn't have the typical command that he usually features, but he battled, and that's the sign of a good pitcher that can go out there without his best command and battle through that," manager Dan Jennings said. "Four hits, four walks and was able to make it through six and give us that opportunity."
Fernandez, who turns 23 on Friday, also drew one step closer to history. He improved to 15-0, though his ERA jumped from 1.17 to 1.19 in 23 career starts at Marlins Park.
According to Elias, Fernandez is just one victory shy of Johnny Allen (1932-33) and LaMarr Hoyt (1980-82) for most consecutive decisions won at home to start a career.
"His record speaks for itself what he's been able to do here," Jennings said. "I think it's remarkable, but he's such a competitor. Wherever he takes the ball you know he's going to give you an opportunity and leave everything out on the field, and he did tonight. First time in a long time we haven't seen plus command he normally features. And that being said, he still found a way to battle through those six innings and give us that opportunity."