The last thing anybody expected Jose Fernandez to be doing after his last start of the season Wednesday was apologizing.
But that’s what the 21-year old Cuban-born right-hander was doing — almost profusely — after hot-dogging his trip around the bases after his first career home run, pitching seven innings of one-run ball and leading the Marlins to a 5-2 victory over the Braves in front of 25,111 at Marlins Park.
“I had a good year and it ends up like this on a day like today that is really important for all American people — it’s just something that’s not right and I’m embarrassed of,” said Fernandez, who drew the ire of his manager, teammates and the Braves after sending a Mike Minor pitch 393-feet into The Cleveland Bar in left field, flipping his bat and taking his time rounding the bases.
By the time he reached the plate, Braves catcher Brian McCann, an All-Star teammate, was waiting for him with a warning: “He told me, ‘Buddy, you can’t do that,’ ’’ Fernandez said. “[I said], ‘I know, man. The game got the best of me.’ ’’
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Benches and bullpens cleared. When the dust settled no punches were thrown, but Braves third baseman Chris Johnson was hot. Replays showed Fernandez spit in his direction as he was rounding third base. Johnson had previously exchanged words with Fernandez an inning prior after flying out to left. But Fernandez said there was no issue with Johnson.
“He took exception to [Evan] Gattis’ home run [a half-inning earlier],” McCann said. “You could tell that walking off the field. He happened to hit a home run and stood there.
“I just told him you can’t do that. ... I think he realized that he messed up.’’
Marlins manager Mike Redmond admonished the behavior, saying it “ruined the night for me.”
“You have to be able to emotionally slow the game down and all the things tonight brought — his last start, the Braves, big crowd — sometimes that shows he’s 21 and he’s human,” Redmond said. “He’s an emotional guy, and that’s the part of the game he’s going to have to learn and get a hold of.”
Fernandez said he apologized to McCann and Minor after the game in the hallway outside the Braves locker room. The Marlins said they also spoke to Fernandez in the clubhouse.
None of the theatrics made a difference in the outcome, though. Before Fernandez’s two-out home run in the sixth, the Marlins (54-90) built a 4-0 lead thanks to a two-run homer to center by Giancarlo Stanton in the fifth, a Stanton two-out RBI single in the first, and Logan Morrison’s RBI single in the fourth.
That all made Fernandez a winner, raising his record to 12-6 and putting him in prime position when the season ends to become the Marlins’ fourth Rookie of the Year winner since 2003. His final line Wednesday including five hits allowed, two walks and five strikeouts. His only mistake: the solo homer by Gattis in the sixth.
Fernandez’s season totals — 2.19 ERA, 172 2/3 innings pitched, 185 strikeouts, 57 walks — are among the best all-time for a rookie. His opponents’ .182 batting average against him tied with Hideo Nomo (1995) for best mark since 1900 by a rookie pitcher.
Fernandez also ended the season 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA at home, becoming one of three rookies all-time to go undefeated at home.
A 9/11 tale
Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler was only a sophomore in high school when the attacks of Sept. 11 took place, but the day’s events remain fresh in his mind a dozen years later.
Koehler’s father, Rolf, a 21-year veteran with the New York Police Department, was one of the first responders on the scene. Rolf is alive today even though he was close by when the second tower came crashing down, Koehler said.
Koehler said his father, still deeply affected by events of 9/11, stepped down from his post as sergeant a year after the attacks.
“Every year on 9/11 they read the names of everybody who died and [Wednesday] was a little tougher for my dad because one of the guys he went to the police academy with and was friends with, it was his daughter who was reading the names on TV,’’ Koehler said.
: Marlins RHP Nathan Eovaldi (3-6, 3.80 ERA) or LHP Brian Flynn (0-0, 6.75) vs. Atlanta Braves RHP Freddy Garcia (0-1, 1.17), 12:40 p.m., Marlins Park.
: Eovaldi’s back stiffened Wednesday, and Redmond said unless he recovers quickly Flynn will make his second big-league start in Eovaldi’s place.