The Braves have had an uncanny ability to avoid facing some of the top pitchers in the National League this season. They missed Clayton Kershaw in both series against the Dodgers. They will have faced Matt Harvey only once in 19 games against the Mets. And they missed 21-year-old Cuban sensation Jose Fernandez in each of the first four three-game series they played against the Marlins.
That ends Friday night at Turner Field when Fernandez faces Julio Teheran in the weekend series opener against the Marlins.
“I’m a little upset with the Marlins they haven’t shut him down yet,” joked Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. “I’m going to have to call (Marlins owner) Jeffrey up and say ‘Mr. Loria, it’s a good time to shut down Fernandez, tomorrow.’”
The Marlins are reportedly planning to shut Fernandez down sometime in early September, so Gonzalez is not far off, actually. The Braves might avoid facing Fernandez when they travel to Miami for a four-game series Sept. 9-12. Fernandez is at 152 2/3 innings already, and Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has said the Marlins want to hold him between 150 and 170 innings.
Gonzalez acknowledges, though, that he’s curious to see the phenom with the upper 90s fastball. Fernandez is third in the majors in ERA (2.30) behind Kershaw (1.72), and Harvey (2.27). He is 10-5 with four double-digit strikeout games.
“You follow him,” said Gonzalez, also a native of Cuba. “You read the boxscores and you see him every time he goes out he’s got a chance to do something really, really special - throw a no-hitter or complete game shutout. (He’s got) really good stuff, all the pitches, command. For a kid that young, he’s got some presence.”
Gonzalez said he’s already been impressed with how Fernandez carries himself, and he’s had that confirmed in conversations with Marlins special assistants and Hall-of-Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez.
“He looks like he just has fun,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got a big smile on his face. Seems like a respectful guy….I hope he gets a chance to win the rookie of the year. I think him and (Yasiel) Puig are the two favorites right now.”
Fernandez will be facing the rookie Teheran, who’s having a pretty special year of his own. Teheran is tied with Fernandez for the second-most wins among NL rookie pitchers (10). He’s fifth among NL rookies in ERA (3.08), second in innings pitched (155) and third in strikeouts (140).
Teheran just faced Cardinals rookie standout Shelby Miller in his last start in St. Louis, allowing four runs in six innings of a 6-2 loss.
“Who am I pitching against?” Teheran said, with a smile on his face when asked about Friday’s matchup. “I’m just trying to do my thing. I know he’s going to do his thing, so it’s going to be a pretty good game.”
Teheran has taken notice of Fernandez this season and come away impressed.
“He’s intimidating to the hitters; that’s why he’s successful,” Teheran said. “It’s fun to watch him pitch.”