After (prematurely) writing about how Jose Fernandez was beginning to round-off into mid-season form after seemingly solving most of the issues which hampered his first two starts of the campaign three weeks ago, the Jose Fernandez of old finally arrived last night in start number seven.
Despite allowing a runner to reach third base with one out in the first frame of the game, Fernandez produced seven shutout innings and eleven strikeouts to land Miami back in the win column after a disappointing end to their three-series winning streak over the weekend.
Miami's ace exited after 110 pitches and allowed four hits and four walks. Command seems to be a niggling issue for Jose Fernandez this season but, apart from the walks, he was cruising last night against a team which lit up the scoreboard against the Marlins the last time the two teams met in Milwaukee.
Fernandez's performance was arguably not the talking point of the game thanks to J.T. Realmuto reminding the world about baserunning rule 7.08 (h), but, nevertheless, this game was extremely important for the club. Although a runner had to be stranded at third base in the very first inning, Fernandez escaped without allowing a run for the first time this season.
This may be all that Fernandez needed to boost his confidence after an uncharacteristic start to 2016. He had only managed to show flashes of dominance before last night, and labored through many stressful innings along the way. To any player, confidence is a powerful thing. Fernandez has still exuded confidence in his ability this season, but there wasn't as much of a buzz around him as in seasons past; that might now change.
Now that he has finally put together a dominant performance, expect more to follow in the coming weeks as the Marlins continue to keep pressure on the division leaders. After a streak of 11 wins in 12 games, largely without Fernandez's excellence (although, allowing only two runs over six innings in Los Angeles was impressive), it's not hard to imagine that another such streak is within the realms of possibility with a confident ace who can lead on the field and inspire the team in the dugout.
While Miami's other starters have been impressing early on this season, especially the young lefty Adam Conley, this rotation relies on Jose Fernandez. He showed his worth last night by snapping a very demoralising losing streak, just as any top ace is employed to do. Before last night, Fernandez wasn't able to dominate on demand this season.
There may be no stopping him now.