Like a kid on a carnival ride, rookie Jose Fernandez doesn’t want his first season in the majors to stop, doesn’t want to step off the ride. But stop it will after he makes one final start Wednesday at Marlins Park.
“It’s almost done,” Fernandez said on the eve of his last trip to the mound. “I’m looking at it, like, ‘already?’ I’ve got to go home already? It flew by, and I don’t want to go home. I want to play another month.”
The Marlins, not wanting to take any chances with their talented 21-year-old, are shutting Fernandez down for the season. They vowed at the start of the year they would not let him throw more than 170 innings, and they’re sticking to that edict.
One way or other, Fernandez said the season has turned out a whole lot better than he could have ever imagined.
“What were my expectations?” Fernandez replied to a question. “Start in Double A. Play half of the year there. And get to the big leagues after the All-Star Game. But it came out a little better than that.”
Did it ever.
Fernandez was picked to the All-Star team and continued to turn it on after that, emerging into a leading contender — if not the favorite — to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. He will likely end up finishing among the top vote-getters for the Cy Young Award, too.
“I’ve got one more start, and then I’ve got a lot of time to think about stuff,” he said of any postseason honors that might be bestowed upon him.
Fernandez hopes to put an exclamation point on his outstanding rookie campaign with a win over the Braves. He will put his perfect home record on the line (he’s 8-0 in 14 starts at Marlins Park), and then spend the rest of the season in the dugout, watching his teammates.
“It hasn’t really kicked in that it’s my last start,” said Fernandez, who expects more than 30 friends and family members to drive over from Tampa for the game. “It’s not like I’m going to hold back. Normally I never do that. But [Wednesday] I’m going to give everything I’ve got.”
Braves top Marlins
The Marlins scored three runs in Tuesday’s first inning, a rare burst of productivity for the lowest-scoring team in the majors. Turns out they were only teasing, reverting to their old ways, as they failed to score again in a 4-3 loss to the Braves.
It was another shaky night for a Marlins starter not named Fernandez.
This time it was Tom Koehler who couldn’t get the job done, as he was knocked out after giving four runs in five innings — the longest outing any of the other four starting pitchers, as it turns out, over the previous seven calendar days.
Koehler ran into immediate trouble, giving up two runs in the first, all with two outs.
The Marlins answered quickly against Julio Teheran when Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison each drove in runs with hits, and Donovan Solano scored another on a fielder’s choice. Teheran gave up only two more hits after that, and the Braves scored two more off Koehler in the third to take the lead.
The Marlins had the tying run at second with two outs in the ninth when closer Craig Kimbrel’s pitch got past catcher Brian McCann. But the ball hit the backstop and bounced directly back to McCann, who quickly fired to third to catch Jake Marisnick in a rundown. Marisnick was tagged out for the game’s last out.
“Just an unfortunate bounce,” said manager Mike Redmond. “The ball bounced right back to the catcher. I think that kind of sums up about how we’re going right now.”
With 19 games remaining, the Marlins must go at least 10-9 to avoid a 100-loss season for only the second time in franchise history.
• Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (11-6, 2.23 ERA) vs. Atlanta Braves LHP Mike Minor (13-6, 3.06), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Thursday: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-6, 3.80) vs. Braves LHP Alex Wood (3-3, 3.45), 12:40 p.m., Marlins Park.
• Scouting report: With a win on Wednesday, Fernandez would become only the ninth pitcher since 1916 to compile an unbeaten record of 9-0 or better at home while making at least 15 starts.