Jose Fernandez likes it in Miami. He likes Marlins Park even better.
Fernandez remained unbeaten in his home ballpark, running his career record there to 14-0 as the Marlins ended a four-game losing skid with a 2-0 win over the Reds on Thursday.
Making his second start since returning from Tommy John surgery, Fernandez took care of the Reds in dominating style, allowing only five hits while striking out nine.
“There’s a little bit of an aura when he pitches at home,” said manager Dan Jennings.
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Only two pitchers since 1900 got off to better starts at home to open their careers: Johnny Allen of the 1932-33 New York Yankees (16-0) and LaMarr Hoyt of the 1980-82 Chicago White Sox (16-0).
He’s become a draw unlike any Marlins pitcher since Dontrelle Willis.
Though the announced crowd of 25,027 seemed questionable, given the fact that the no tickets were sold in the upper deck and several sections of the middle level were empty, the turnout was decidedly larger than it would normally be for a mid-week game.
“Sometimes I look in the stands, and I see those kids laughing, saying my name, and it’s really special,” Fernandez said.
“I really appreciate being out there and seeing those kids smile.”
And Fernandez didn’t disappoint.
Fernandez, who turns 22 later this month, was in control from the start, with his fastball touching 97 mph and his off-speed pitches keeping the Reds off-balance throughout.
“That breaking ball was absolutely filthy,” Jennings said.
In his two comeback starts covering 13 innings, Fernandez hasn’t walked a batter and struck out 15.
He’s yielded one run over the past 12 innings after giving up two in the first inning of his return outing.
“Nothing he does could surprise me,” Jennings said.
Fernandez had waited seven days for his second start, traveling with the team to Chicago and Boston, but not once stepping on the mound at either Wrigley Field or Fenway Park.
But unlike his July 2 outing, when Fernandez was noticeably charged up, he kept his emotions in check for the most part on Thursday.
“That’s something we talked about,” said catcher Jeff Mathis, who was behind the plate on Thursday.
“We did it before his last start, too, just trying to calm his emotions down and channel that energy and put it in the right direction. And he did a good job of that today.”
The Marlins offense didn’t give Fernandez much to work with, scoring a run in the first off Reds starter Michael Lorenzen on a Justin Bour double and another in the fifth on an Adeiny Hechavarria’s double-play grounder.
Fernandez received some nice defense support, though.
Mathis sprang out of the box on Billy Hamilton’s swinging bunt, grabbing the ball and making the off-balance throw to first to nip the speedy runner.
And in the seventh inning, with his pitch count rising and encountering trouble for the first time all night, Fernandez induced an inning-ending double-play grounder out of Tucker Barnhart to close out the outing.
Carter Capps and A.J. Ramos did the rest, working the final two innings in scoreless relief.