Wood's career night not enough vs. Fernandez, Fish
Lefty fans 11, but Braves shut out on three hits -- two in eighth inning
ATLANTA -- There might not be too many more occasions when Alex Wood will exit a hard-luck loss feeling as satisfied as he did on Tuesday night, when the finest effort of his blossoming career was trumped by another young pitcher who has already firmly established himself as one of baseball's best.
Wood once again proved he has the capability to rise to the occasion when faced with great challenges. But his impressive eight-inning effort was trumped by the sheer dominance Jose Fernandez displayed while leading the Marlins to a 1-0 win over the Braves at Turner Field.
"It [stinks] to be on the wrong end of it," Wood said. "But from a pitching standpoint, I think [Fernandez] would probably tell you the same thing, it doesn't get any more fun than that. That's like going back to high school days when you match up against your rival across town."
Both just a few years removed from high school, Fernandez and Wood pitched like seasoned veterans in this historic pitchers' duel, during which the two teams combined to notch 28 strikeouts without issuing a walk. The Elias Sports Bureau said this stands as the highest strikeout total in a game without a walk since 1900.
Fernandez matched a career high with 14 strikeouts and Wood set a career high with 11.
"Maybe this is one of those games you watch on ESPN Classic three or four years down the road, and you say, 'OK, that was nice to see,'" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But you're just trying to get your team to get first and second and somebody break a bat in there. Or somebody throws one in the seats and you get the [win]."
In other words, the odds of beating Fernandez on this night rested on a hope and a prayer. The Marlins right-hander surrendered three hits, two of which were recorded during his eighth and final inning. The only two Braves to reach second base did so with the assistance of a balk and an infield single.
"[The hitters] are coming back shaking their heads, going, 'This is going to be a tough one,'" Gonzalez said. "I'm sure their side was saying the same thing about Woody. It just so happened that the two hits that he gave up out of the four were back to back."
On the way to being on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss for the second time in less than a week, Wood limited the Marlins to four hits, two of which did not exit the infield grass. Unfortunately, the other two -- Giancarlo Stanton's double and Casey McGehee's game-winning single -- were recorded in successive fashion with one out in the fourth inning.
"It was a lot of fun going out there and competing against a guy like Fernandez," Wood said. "He's got electric stuff as we saw tonight."
This marked the first time Fernandez had faced the Braves since Sept. 6, a game best remembered as the one in which he hit his first career home run and then got in a heated argument with former Atlanta catcher Brian McCann as he crossed the plate.
Fernandez drew the ire of the Braves during that previous matchup. This outing, he simply drew praise.
"It was nice to get that knock," Braves third baseman Chris Johnson said of his eighth-inning single. "Anything off that guy. Anything in play is good. It really is, all kidding aside. If you square a ball up against that guy, you go back to the dugout feeling cool."
Johnson's single to begin the bottom of the eighth inning accounted for Atlanta's first hit since Jason Heyward opened the bottom of the first inning with an opposite-field single. After erasing Heyward with B.J. Upton's double-play groundout, Fernandez struck out 10 of the next 14 batters he faced, including striking out the side in both the fourth and fifth innings.
"The Braves are a good team," Fernandez said. "They can hit. They can make a mess one through nine. You can't take it easy, because they got some really good hitters and they know what they're doing. That was the plan: Go out there and make good pitches."
Fernandez's performance might have been the finest produced at Turner Field since Randy Johnson's perfect game on May 18, 2004.
"He's got the capability of running those type of games every time he goes out," Gonzalez said. "He's got 97, 98, 99 mph early in the game, and he commands his breaking ball and he commands his fastball. He holds runners. You can't even steal against him. He's pretty darn good."
Before Andrelton Simmons recorded a two-out infield single in the eighth inning, the only Braves player to reach second base was Upton, who reached on a McGehee error and then took second on a balk in the fourth inning.
Wood proved to be nearly as dominant. Stanton hit his double on a changeup that was off the plate, and McGehee's decisive single snuck past a diving Dan Uggla, who was shifted behind second base with the right-hander at the plate.
After McGehee's single, Wood retired 14 of the final 15 batters he faced. His only blemish during this stretch came in the fifth inning, when Fernandez hit a dribbler down the third-base line that stayed fair.
"[Wood] was a stud tonight," Johnson said. "We have all the confidence in the world in him. We know how good he is, and he showed it tonight. He just went up against a tough guy, and that guy had our number tonight."