Jose Fernandez gave the Marlins whiffs of fresh air on Sunday afternoon.
Like, 14 of them.
Fernandez tied a career high by striking out 14 as the Marlins avoided being swept by the New York Mets with a 1-0 victory.
“I think it’s obvious I love to pitch in Miami,” Fernandez said.
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That’s for sure. Fernandez is now 23-1 for his career at Marlins Park, where a crowd of 28,196 (with 927 dogs) showed up Sunday to see him take on the Mets.
Fernandez didn’t disappoint.
He became the second pitcher in Marlins history to win eight consecutive starts, matching the club mark set by Chris Hammond in 1993 — the team’s inaugural season.
Instead of relying heavily on his fastball, Fernandez mixed in a healthy helping of sliders and curveballs on Sunday. He struck out 12 of the 14 batters on Sunday with off-speed pitches, which pleased manager Don Mattingly.
“I think we just continue to see him not be max effort all the time,” Mattingly said. “I think that’s what we like. I think we see a more under control Jose as far as making pitches and maturity toward pitching. But then we still get to see the emotional kid who loves to compete.”
Fernandez displayed that emotion the only time he ran into trouble, when the Mets put runners on the corners with two outs in the seventh.
When he struck out Wilmer Flores with a slider to end the inning, he pumped both fists as he came off the mound.
“The fans, that was for them,” Fernandez said. “I feel like that was for them. They came out and I felt that here, and the love, and it was a great feeling.”
In what was a classic pitcher’s duel involving Fernandez and Matt Harvey, J.T. Realmuto drove in the game’s only run with his RBI single in the fifth.
“It was a pretty good pitcher’s duel, obviously,” Mattingly said.
Fernandez and Harvey each pitched seven complete innings, and each allowed only four hits. But it was the strikeouts that separated the two. Fernandez whiffed 14 for the third time in his career while Harvey finished with only three strikeouts.
It was the 14th time that Fernandez has struck out at least 10 batters in one game, a club record that he had shared with Ricky Nolasco.
After Fernandez reached 100 pitches, Mattingly turned to his bullpen, allowing David Phelps to work the eighth and A.J. Ramos the ninth.
“Anytime you come in after an outing like that, it was electric,” Ramos said.
Ramos said he couldn’t help but feel energized watching Fernandez.
“I was getting pumped,” Ramos said. “He’s out there, and he’s dominating. That last slider to strike out Flores, that was huge. I got chills. The crowd was electric.”
But Ramos and the Marlins didn’t survive without a scare.
With two away in the ninth, Neil Walker drove a ball to deep center.
“That one, as soon as he hit it, I was like, ‘No way,’ ” said Ramos, who thought it was a home run. “I thought he got that one. I turned around and luckily [Marcell] Ozuna was there to catch it right before it hit the wall. I was a little nervous on that one.”
Ramos recorded his 18th save of the season and has not blown a save chance in his past 27 opportunities, dating to last season.
“I think he should go to the All-Star Game,” Fernandez said of Ramos.
But Ramos said that if anyone should go to the All-Star Game, it’s Fernandez.
“That guy should be an All-Star for sure,” Ramos said. “The way he’s pitching, it’s amazing. He’s just striking out people left and right.”
▪ With an infield single in the eighth, Ichiro Suzuki increased his career hits total to 2,966.