Just in case he hasn’t locked it up already, Miami Marlins’ starting pitcher and 2013 All-Star, Jose Fernandez, will have one last start to make his case for the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year award on Wednesday night. Fernandez will face Mike Minor and the first place Atlanta Braves looking to put an exclamation point on what has been an outstanding season.
After a 69-93 campaign in 2012 which led to another fire sale, something that seems to come bi-annually for the Marlins, Fernandez has brought hope to an organization that had very little and his final start will be in front of his home crowd at Marlins Park where Fernandez has been absolutely dominant this season. Fernandez was given an innings limit of 170 and will likely surpass that on Wednesday thus ending his rookie season.
At Marlins Park, Fernandez is 8-0 this year with a miniscule 1.19 ERA. In his last start on Friday against the Washington Nationals, Fernandez allowed just one hit in seven shutout innings while striking out nine. That start marked the second time this season that Fernandez allowed just a hit in seven shutout innings.
Since the start of May, Fernandez is 11-4 with a 1.82 ERA and the rookie right-hander from Cuba has not allowed more than two runs in any start in more than two months. His 2.23 ERA ranks second in the National League behind only former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and his overall performance this season is greater than anyone could have asked for. Fernandez also ranks eighth in the N.L. in strikeouts, but what’s even more amazing is the fact that Fernandez is only 21 years old.
Selected as Miami’s only All-Star this season, Fernandez became just the third pitcher at the age of 20 or younger to record a pair of strikeouts in the All-Star game. Fernandez struck out Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and American League home run leader Chris Davis in addition to getting 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to pop out to first all in one perfect inning at Citi Field.
In his final start as a 20-year-old against the postseason bound Pittsburgh Pirates, Fernandez overcame two early runs allowed to strike out a career-high 13 batters in a 3-2 Marlins’ victory. That career-high lasted just four days as Fernandez followed that effort up with a 14-strikeout performance against Cleveland in his first start as a 21-year-old on August 2nd. That night, Fernandez allowed just three hits in eight shutout innings.
With the Marlins struggling this season both in terms of wins and losses and attendance, Fernandez has become a reliable ace and more butts are in the seats at Marlins Park when he pitches. While Miami has only 53 wins on the season, the club is 17-10 when Fernandez starts. That accounts for just under a third of Miami’s victories which also means that the Marlins are just 36-79 when any other pitcher starts. Among the entire Miami pitching staff, Fernandez has seven more wins than the next closest Marlin.
The season that Fernandez has put together is even more remarkable considering that Fernandez was not projected to make the opening day roster at the start of spring training. Only injuries to starters Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez kept Fernandez as the team’s fifth starter to begin the year. It certainly has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Fernandez has become the face of a Marlins franchise that just six months ago looked dead in the water.