Fernandez dominates, reaches milestone
Right-hander third pitcher since 1900 to win first 16 home decisions
MIAMI -- Time away didn't slow down Jose Fernandez. If anything, the 23-year-old looked as good as new on Saturday night in the Marlins' 2-0 win over the Nationals at Marlins Park.
Returning from the disabled list after being sidelined for more than a month with a right biceps strain, Fernandez was simply magnificent, striking out seven in five shutout innings.
"Walking off the mound healthy is always great," Fernandez said. "It's always great."
That hasn't always been easy. Fernandez didn't make his season debut until July 2 because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. And after his Aug. 7 start at Atlanta, he felt discomfort in his right shoulder, which was later diagnosed as a right biceps strain.
Although he missed so much time, on Saturday Fernandez looked like he didn't miss a beat.
"It speaks to how he works," Miami manager Dan Jennings said. "As I've said many times, I've never seen someone go after Tommy John rehab the way that he did. He went after that with the same competitive mindset as he did on the mound. This last little setback, he went about it the same way."
Saturday may have marked just the 44th MLB start for Fernandez, but whenever the Miami ace is on the mound, something special may happen.
Fernandez hit another milestone in Saturday's win. Since his 2013 rookie season, he is 16-0 with a 1.11 ERA at Marlins Park. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Fernandez is the third pitcher since 1900 to win his first 16 home decisions. The others were Johnny Allen (1932-33) and LaMarr Hoyt (1980-82).
"I think that means a lot to my teammates," Fernandez said. "They're the ones who hit. They get the runs. I think it's just another number. It's just another win. I'm really happy the team got a win. That's basically the goal here."
Many questioned why Fernandez would want to pitch this late in the season, and risk further injury. The answer is simple -- for peace of mind.
Neither Fernandez nor the Marlins want to head into the offseason wondering how he may respond after a prolonged layoff.
"I feel good. No problem," Fernandez said. "Tomorrow we're going to do what we have to do to take care of it. We'll see what happens. But we should be good."
The Marlins felt Fernandez could go as many as 75 pitches on Saturday. He was at 69 when lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.
"When you come back and are throwing 99 mph, it's pretty tough -- 99 with a slider that's pretty good," said Nationals All-Star Bryce Harper, who struck out looking in the first. "So you've got to tip your cap to him. He battled out there and he got us."