Photo by USA Today, Stock
By Rich Mancuso
Again this week Jose Fernandez was a hard luck pitcher on the mound. The Miami Marlins righthander and 2013 Rookie of The Year on Monday night against the New York Mets tossed 6.0 innings at Citi Field with a no-decision. He kept the NL wild card contending Marlins in the game, but his team once again failed to provide run support.
Fernandez has become that hard luck pitcher. And though winning ballgames is more important for the Marlins in their quest for a postseason, it would be their first since 2003 when they won their second World Series against the NY Yankees, there has been that tendency to get the strikeout and hope for run support.
“We know how close we are and we know what we can accomplish,” he said after throwing 113 pitches Monday night against the Mets and sixth scoreless outing of the season.
It is frustrating, because the 23-year old native of Santa Clara, Cuba has pitched effectively. However, the Marlins are in a tailspin at the plate and that has come at the unfortunate time of pennant stretch baseball going into September.
“We’re giving everything on the field,” said Fernandez. “It’s just unfortunate it’s just not happening right now.”
The scoreless outings are tied for fourth-most in the majors this season. Fernandez works on the fastball that has provided the ability to keep the Marlins in ballgames and after making just eight starts in 2014, he was one of those velocity pitchers that had successful Tommy John Surgery.
As with many who undergo the procedure, Fernandez has recovered and continues to be considered one of the premiere throwers in the game. Nine strikeouts prior to his start against the Mets, established a new franchise record of 213 during a season.
“Records are nice to have,” he said. “But in the end it is the wins that count and we need to get something going. It is getting late. This is baseball and it happens. I know this team is capable of putting together good at bats and the results will come.”
His manager, Don Mattingly, the former Yankees great, hesitated a bit about pulling his young ace from the game against the Mets. But the pitch count was high, and in this day and age of being conscious with counts and innings, Fernandez had to call it a night.
“Unfortunate we could not get more run support for him,” said Mattingly. “Jose is throwing the ball well. We need him to be strong down the stretch.”
Fernandez leads the majors in strikeouts with 219, which accounts for 12.89 per 9.0 innings. If that ratio stays the same, and it certainly appears it will, that would mark the third highest rate by a starting pitcher since 1913 behind Pedro Martinez in 1999.
This season, he has compiled seven digit strikeout games tying him for fourth with David Rice of the Boston Red Sox. In his first start after the All-Star break, at Philadelphia, Fernandez tied his career high in strikeouts with 14.
He is proud of his Cuban heritage and anticipates more of a Major League presence coming over and that appears to be getting less difficult with a role baseball has now played in Cuba. A first round pick of the Marlins in the 2011 Amatuer draft, Fernandez became the second Cuban to start an Opening Day game since Livan Hernandez in 1998.
“A proud moment,: he said about that day. He remembers the day as a 20-year old, five years ago and taking a speedboat to flee Communist Cuba. It was the beginning of a journey to the Major Leagues.
Fernandez can relate to the struggles and journey. As one of three Marlins to make the all-star game in July, the journey was again told and each time it never gets old. Because there is some much struggle for talented baseball players in his homeland, he hopes the journey for them will become easier to get where he is today,
“All I can do is the best I can,”he said. But the goal is to help get the Marlins to the postseason and with every start a healthy Jose Fernandez gives his team an opportunity to again be a part of October baseball.