As he walked off the mound after completing the fifth, Jose Fernandez smiled broadly, knowing what was to come the second he entered the dugout, that he would be told his night was done.
Even though Fernandez had not given up a run to the Nationals — and only two harmless singles, at that — the Marlins are taking no chances with their prized pitcher. He had thrown 69 pitches in his first outing in a month, plenty enough for the first time back on the mound.
“I knew I was [coming] out,” Fernandez said.
And sure enough, manager Dan Jennings told him exactly what Fernandez expected to hear, that he could watch the rest of the game from the dugout, his job a success.
“I think it was the smartest move,” Fernandez conceded.
The pitcher-turned-spectator watched as the Marlins’ bullpen did the rest, hanging on for a 2-0 victory that improved Fernandez’s record at Marlins Park to 16-0 and further dampened what little glimmer of hope remained with Washington and its playoff chances.
“His stuff, I thought, was as good as we’ve seen all year,” Jennings said.
Fernandez became just the third pitcher to begin his career with a 16-0 home mark. Johnny Allen (1932-33) and LaMarr Hoyt (1980-82) were the others. No one has ever made it to 17-0.
“It’s just another number,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez, who was returning from a biceps strain, improved to 5-0 on the season and is expected to make his next start later this week when the Marlins are in Washington.
While Fernandez did his thing, striking out seven, and the relievers did theirs, holding the Nationals without a run over the final four innings, the lineup was wasting one scoring chance after another with poor situational hitting and bad base running.
The Marlins totaled nine hits, a walk and a hit batsman in innings four through six, but only had two runs to show for it. Martin Prado and Tomas Telis were each guilty of poor decisions on the basepaths, leading to outs.
But the two runs held up because the bullpen stiffened.
Bryan Morris retired all six batters he faced to get the Marlins through the seventh and eighth innings, and A.J. Ramos, after giving up a leadoff hit in the ninth to Anthony Rendon, struck out Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth to end it.
Ramos said of Fernandez and his influence on the Marlins: “When he pitches, the team’s different. He’s bringing something to the team that nobody can explain.”
a dunn deal
Mike Dunn became the all-time wins leader for a Marlins reliever on Friday when the left-hander notched his 20th victory. Dunn was brought in to face Harper, striking him out to end the seventh. One reason for Dunn’s high win count: his durability.
Dunn has never spent a day on the disabled list and said the last time he remembers even being injured was in 2005, not long after he was drafted out of college as an outfielder.
Asked if there was something in his genetic makeup that enabled him to avoid arm injuries common to other pitchers, Dunn acknowledged that his arm is unique.
“I’m missing one of my rotator cuff muscles,” Dunn said. “Everyone is supposed to have four. I have three. There’s just a hole where there’s supposed to be a muscle. They thought it either atrophied away when I was a kid, or I was born without it.”
▪ The Marlins continued their overhaul of the organization’s player development and minor-league staffs, cutting ties with minor-league coordinators Wayne Rosenthal, John Pierson and Charlie Corbell, and hitting coaches Corey Hart and Damon Minor.
Rosenthal, who had been serving as rehab pitching coordinator, was the pitching coach for the 2003 Marlins that won the World Series and had spent 13 years in the organization.
▪ Sunday: Marlins LHP Brad Hand (4-5, 5.20 ERA) vs. Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (11-11, 3.03), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino (3-3, 3.72) at New York Mets RHP Logan Verrett (1-0, 1.93), 7:10 p.m., Citi Field.