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 on Wednesday night at Marlins Park.
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. The 21-year-old right-hander 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 Fernandez responded with some choice words of his own as both benches emptied. No punches were thrown.
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.
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.
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 .182, was held out of the starting lineup for the third game in a row. His OPS of .682 is also a career low. … 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. … Braves’ OF Justin Upton did not start Wednesday. He left in the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game after fouling a pitch off his knee. Upton has missed 13 games this season due to nagging back, calf, knee, hand and hamstring injuries. … 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.