What a game in Miami tonight!
Jose Fernandez led the Fish to a 10-0 victory over the wild-card candidate Cleveland Indians tonight at Marlins Park. On the heels of a 13-strikeout performance against the hottest team in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Fernandez dealt 14 strikeouts over eight shutout innings tonight. To put that in perspective, tonight’s feat is the first time a Major League pitcher has fanned 13+ batters in consecutive starts since Randy Johnson did it in 2004 (h/t Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post). That’s the Hall of Fame Randy Johnson. The Big Train himself. After the third out of the eighth, the 17,000 or so that were on hand rose to their feet with a standing ovation, earning a tip of the cap from the young ace.
Fernandez’ pitching was a thing of beauty tonight. His “out” pitch was a fast, tight-spinning curveball that looked like it was breaking four feet. It was particularly devastating to left-handed batters. It would start outside, and finish near their back foot. A hitter that came within six inches of the ball could count himself lucky. Former Yankee Nick Swisher got a hit early on, so for fun, Fernandez struck him out with a 90-MPH changeup that faded down and away from his swing. The expressions and body language of the strikeout victims spoke volumes about the difficulty level of his pitching.
It’s not like the Indians can’t hit, either. Their offense is ranked third in MLB. This season, the first five batters of tonight’s starting lineup have combined for 194 RBI. But Fernandez dominates the batters he faces, and he turned 21 just three days ago. He’s got the record for the most strikeouts in a game by an NL pitcher this year, and is tied for second if you include the AL in your count.
To finish what Fernandez started, Steve Ames made his second big-league appearance in the ninth inning, fanning two of the three batters he faced. Part of the recent Nolasco trade, his stuff was impressive tonight.
Making “great” better, the Marlins’ offense really put the mustard on their bats tonight. Logan Morrison had four hits and four RBI. Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Jake Marisnick each tapped three. The Marlins hit three doubles and two triples tonight. Even Jose Fernandez had an RBI sacrifice fly.
The Marlins are now 5 games over .500 since the end of May. That milestone is significant because it represents the start of the execution of the long-term plan put forth by the front office at the conclusion of last season. Stanton and Morrison both returned to the lineup healthy, and it brought up three of the pitchers we traded for. The team appears to have turned a corner.
With the exception of Hanley Ramirez, who is having a near-MVP season in Los Angeles, the other pieces of the fire sale aren’t doing so well. On Thursday, Josh Johnson could only manage 2 1/3 innings, giving up 7 runs on 10 hits and two walks. His ERA sits at 6.60. The tooth-gnashing, hair-tearing, gut wrenching offseason moves are looking better and better. We have a lot of young players, and they’re looking like All-stars.