A season ago, the Atlanta Braves didn't know what to make of rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez. After he shut them down Tuesday night, they fell over each other heaping praise on one of the game's top young players.
Fernandez matched his career high with 14 strikeouts, allowing three hits (all singles) and walking none over eight innings, combining with closer Steve Cishek for a 1-0 victory by the Miami Marlins. He didn't hit any home runs this time, but Fernandez also went 1 for 3 at the plate.
The Braves expressed no sour grapes whatsoever. Nothing like, "We missed our chances," or "The ump was blind," or "Lucky kid." Via the Associated Press and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was all happy talk.
• "He pitched amazing. We went up against a buzz saw today" — Chris Johnson
• Braves hitters "were coming back shaking their heads" — Manager Fredi Gonzalez
• "He's got the capability of running those type of games out every time he goes out"— Gonzalez
• "It sucks to be on the wrong end of it, but from a pitching standpoint it doesn’t get any more fun than that – I think he’ll probably tell you the same thing" — Alex Wood.
(Wood, it should be noted, pitched nearly as well as Fernandez: Eight innings, a run and four hits allowed, along with 11 strikeouts and no walks. Add three more combined strikeouts from the relief pitchers and that's 28 K's and zero walks. And Wood did absolutely nothing controversial that might have disrespected the game. OK, back to the Braves praising Fernandez.)
And one more, from his couch, the great Chipper Jones:
Wow. Guys like this make me glad I retired. He is D-irt-eeee!— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) April 23, 2014
A cynic might wonder: What are they getting at? What happened this past September definitely seemed like bygones, when Hernandez hit his first major league home run against the Braves, who didn't seem to like him very much. Fernandez tangled with Brian McCann and Johnson over some unwritten rules violations, which otherwise overshadowed Fernandez's fine performance. Fernandez and Johnson even seemed to spit at each other as Fernandez rounded the third-base bag. McCann blocked Fernandez from going to the dugout until he heard what McCann had to say. Of course, the Braves had ignored teammate Evan Gattis staring at a home run that he had hit against Fernandez earlier in the game, which had goaded Fernandez to reply, but whatever.
Fernandez, 21 at the time, took what McCann said to heart, offering genuine apologies after the game for his part in escalating the tensions, and the Braves seemed to accept it.
In the rematch, Fernandez did nothing obvious to show up the Braves — other than making them look bad at the plate. There was no rubbing it in, like other players might. In fact, Fernandez gave credit to his catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, for doing whatever it is he does behind the plate, and to luck being on his side. Showboating is not for Fernandez anymore, which is fine.
And if it gives the Braves etiquette committee nothing to work with, we're all better for it.
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