"He was unbelievable," catcher J.T. Realmuto said. "He had all of his stuff going, obviously. But a couple of long innings [pitch count-wise] there, early. After that, he really settled in. He got batters out quickly. We tried focusing on getting guys out on three pitches, that way he can pitch a little deeper into games. He's been able to do that for us lately."
Benchmarks are popping up every time Fernandez (9-2, 2.29 ERA) is on the mound. He has won eight straight starts since April 28, showcasing an ERA of 1.38 with 78 strikeouts to 15 walks. The eight straight wins ties Chris Hammond (1993) for the longest streak in franchise history.
Five of the those eight wins were against teams with winning records, including beating the Nationals twice. He has also defeated the Dodgers, Pirates and Mets. In those five outings, his ERA is 1.09 with 48 strikeouts in 33 innings.
Fernandez also matched his career high for strikeouts in a game, done three times, on Sunday. Fernandez has five double-digit strikeout games this year and 14 in his career, which tops Ricky Nolasco (13) for the club record.
"I think we're seeing a more under-control Jose as far as making pitches and maturity towards pitching," manager Don Mattingly said. "But then we still get to see the emotional kid, who loves to compete. It's fun to watch."
The only jam Fernandez was in came with two outs in the seventh. With runners at the corners, Fernandez struck out Wilmer Flores swinging through an 86-mph slider.
"I felt great, and I trusted all my pitches," Fernandez said. "Right there, at that moment, J.T. came up to me, and said, 'Hey, you want to do this?' I said, 'I want to do this.'"
Fernandez's wipeout pitch on Sunday was his slider. Of his 14 strikeouts, 12 came on that pitch.
"He had the best slider he's thrown all year today," Realmuto said. "He will throw it different speeds, different shapes. It's a different slider to righties and lefties, sometimes. He's able to play with it and manipulate it."
Fernandez, who didn't walk a batter, was able to dominate with that breaking pitch, even with New York knowing it was coming.
"Movement," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Late movement."
At one stretch, Fernandez retired 15 in a row, nine with strikeouts.
"You put yourself into position to get to that slider count," Realmuto said. "He's a guy who can throw it early in the count. He can throw it late. Honestly, it's a different pitch. It's tough on hitters because he doesn't throw the same slider every time."