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Jose Fernandez improves again in third outing of 2016

Miami's ace picked up his first win in three tries this season as he struck out nine batters over six innings last night and looked like he was starting to approach mid-season form while doing so.

Back to winning ways in MIA
Back to winning ways in MIA
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There is always the worry that Tommy John surgery will leave a pitcher a shadow of his former self. This was never the case with Jose Fernandez as his return to the mound last season was largely successful, even if the ERA he posted was considerably higher than his rookie campaign.

After a full winter of rest from a bicep strain that shortened his comeback, the Marlins are counting on Jose Fernandez to lead their rotation again in their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 2003. Fernandez, though, was bested by the Detroit Tigers in his first start of the season which snapped his record-breaking win streak at Marlins Park. Despite striking out 13, Fernandez was charged for five runs in only 5.2 innings of work.

Fast-forward six days and Jose Fernandez was very shaky in his start against the Mets, throwing 90 pitches (of which only 54 were strikes) over five innings. He only allowed one run on three hits, but struggled with his command, leading to three walks and numerous situations with runners in scoring position. Similarly uncharacteristic of Fernandez was his lack of strikeouts; he had two through the first four innings before striking out the side in the fifth.

After back-to-back performances where Jose Fernandez was definitely not at his best, it was diffiicult not to subconsciously question what was going on with the right-hander. Apart from his last game before undergoing surgery in 2014, Fernandez has rarely underwhelmed viewers, so two sub-par performances in a row was almost unfathomable. Therefore, a lot rested on his start last night against the Nationals, and he stepped up to the occasion.

Although the command issues are still alarming, Jose Fernandez looked to have some of his best stuff going at times. The Nationals, off to one of the hottest starts in baseball, were held to one run and three hits off of Miami's starter, and struck out nine times. Fernandez got his first win of the campaign courtesy of solid run support, and more importantly, the Marlins got their first win at home after dropping their first five contests in Little Havana.

It is true that Miami is relying heavily on the 23 year-old to spearhead their playoff charge, even if his regular season innings are going to be limited. Whether this year's rotation is successful or not is completely dependent on Fernandez. If he suffers a down year there isn't enough starting talent to collectively pick up the slack.

Over the course of three starts, Jose Fernandez has shown improvement with each outing. When he and the starting lineup are both firing on all cylinders, like they were last night, the Marlins are exceptionally difficult to beat. Fernandez is starting to round-off into form, and the rest of the league should be very worried about it