Fernandez's eventful night leads Marlins past Braves

Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


MIAMI - In the last start of an amazing rookie season, Jose Fernandez pitched seven strong innings, hit his first career homer, nearly sparked a brawl and led the Miami Marlins to a 5-2 win over the Atlanta Braves Wednesday night at Marlins Park.
But despite his dominant performance, Marlins manager Mike Redmond said he "was not happy" with his 21-year-old right-hander, who showed off a bit too much after his homer.
"I think tonight showed some immaturity on Jose's part," Redmond said. "His youth - not to make excuses for him - but showing teams up after a home run, that's not what we do around here. He got caught up in the emotion."
Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA) made his final case for the National League Rookie of the Year award, allowing five hits, three walks and one run. He also stroked two hits in three at-bats.
It was the second of those hits - a solo homer in the sixth - that apparently bruised the Braves' feelings. Fernandez, who had never hit a big-league homer before, flipped his bat and briefly stood at the plate to admire his shot.
When he finally reached home plate, Braves catcher Brian McCann objected to his theatrics, and both benches emptied. No punches were thrown.
After the game, Fernandez was contrite.
"I'm embarrassed," Fernandez said. "I feel like I don't deserve to be here. This isn't high school no more. This is professional baseball, and it should be professional players. I made a mistake, and I'm going to learn from it. That will never happen again. I have to respect the game more than that."
Fernandez said he and McCann are "really close."
"He told me, 'Hey buddy, you can't do that,'" Fernandez said. "I was like, 'I know. I'm sorry.' He was talking to me like a dad teaching a kid. That's how it felt. I don't think it was a fight kind of stuff."
Fernandez said he apologized to McCann and Braves pitcher Mike Minor (13-7) after the game.
As for their confrontation, McCann supported Fernandez's version of the event.
"He happened to hit a home run and stood there," McCann said. "I told him, 'You can't do that'.
"He didn't get aggressive. We just looked at each other. I think he realized he messed up. I think emotions got the best of him tonight.
"When you watch him pitch, there are some things he does on the field that you can do without. ... You can't allow that to happen."
Fernandez came back out for the seventh and put up another zero, striking out Justin Upton with a nasty curveball away to end the inning.
That will stand as Fernandez's final throw of 2013 because he has reached an innings cap set by the Marlins to protect him.
Fernandez also had an interesting situation in the fifth, when he caught Freddie Freeman's ground ball while simultaneously ducking out of the way of the Braves' slugger's broken bat.
The only Braves batter to damage Fernandez was Evan Gattis, who busted up the Marlins' ace's shutout bid by blasting a 403-foot homer to left leading off the sixth. McCann said Evan Gattis' homer upset Fernandez.
Earlier in the game, after the Braves' Chris Johnson flew out, he and Fernandez engaged in a shouting match. Then, when Fernandez homered, he appeared to spit as he rounded third and passed Johnson.
The Marlins opened the scoring in the first inning. With two outs and nobody on, Christian Yelich hit a slow grounder to second. Elliot Johnson charged in but threw the ball away, allowing Yelich to reach second on a play that was ruled a hit and an error. Giancarlo Stanton took advantage of the mistake by hitting an opposite-field single to right, scoring Yelich.
The Marlins made it 2-0 in the fourth when Ed Lucas doubled to right-center and Logan Morrison singled past shortstop.
Stanton made it 4-0 when he belted a two-run homer to center in the fifth. It was his team-high 20th homer of the season, and it came on a 1-2 pitch. Stanton's homer was estimated at 436 feet.
On the mound, Fernandez worked around a leadoff double by Jordan Schafer in the first, a two-out double by Andrelton Simmons in the second and a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth. In the last of those predicaments, Fernandez got Elliot Johnson to foul out to first.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Fernandez was "pretty darn good" even if he is a bit immature.
"He's a playful guy on the mound," Gonzalez said. "He likes to have fun on the mound, and we like to have fun, too. If he's going to play that way, which is fine, he shouldn't get upset when we hit a home run and have fun ourselves. Then it was boys being boys after that.
"I'm going to chalk it up to a young kid, really talented. He's going to be around the big league a lot of years."
NOTES: Marlins' RHP Nathan Eovaldi (back tightness) is unlikely to make his scheduled start on Thursday. Manager Mike Redmond said he will likely start LHP Brian Flynn. The Braves will counter with RHP Freddy Garcia in the finale of a four-game series. ... Braves' 2B Dan Uggla, slumping with a career-low batting average of .181, was held out of the starting lineup for the third game in a row. ... The Braves have spent an MLB-high 163 consecutive days in first place. The 12-game lead they enjoyed in the NL East entering Tuesday was their largest since 2002. ... Marlins' C Jeff Mathis (thumb injury) missed his second straight start. ... The Braves sent LHP Paul Maholm to Atlanta to get an MRI on his left elbow. RHP David Hale will take his spot in the rotation and is set to make his MLB debut Friday against San Diego.

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