Fernandez takes 1-0 duel over Wood

Jose Fernandez saved the electricity for his pitches Tuesday night in his first start against the Braves since inciting a benches-clearing confrontation last September.

He showed exactly how devastating he can be when his focus is on only the hitters. Fernandez matched his career-high with 14 strikeouts, making a 1-0 lead stand up on Alex Wood on a night when the Braves young left-hander was nearly as nasty.

Wood had a career-high 11 strikeouts of his own but settled for his second straight 1-0 loss.

“It sucks to be on the wrong end of it, but from a pitching standpoint it doesn’t get any more fun than that – I think he’ll probably tell you the same thing,” said Wood, now 2-3 despite a 1.54 ERA. “That’s like going back to your high school days when you match up against your rival across town.”

With two young pitchers projected to star in this division for a while, Tuesday figured to be the start of something special.

By the time Steve Cishek and David Carpenter put the finishing touches on the ninth inning, the two teams had piled up 28 strikeouts, the most combined in a game without any walks since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez considers it the best pitched game he’s seen in person since Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game against Josh Johnson and the Marlins in 2010, when he was managing in Florida.

“(Fernandez) faced nine hitters – not counting Woody, but (with Ryan) Doumit, professional hitters,” Gonzalez said. “And they’re coming back shaking their heads. I’m sure their side was saying the same thing about Woody. It just happened that the two hits he gave up out of the four were back-to-back.”

Braves fans already had a pretty good idea of what a bulldog Wood is, both in college choice and demeanor on the mound, but the second round pick out of the University of Georgia took it to new heights Tuesday night.

Tasked with the reigning NL rookie of the year and his nasty repertoire, Wood came up with some dirty work of his own. Wood might have lacked about five mph on his fastball, compared to Fernandez’s, but he attacked hitters with the same ferocity. He had matched his career-high in strikeouts with nine by the sixth inning.

The Marlins managed back-to-back hard-hit balls in the fourth – a Giancarlo Stanton double, followed by a Casey McGehee RBI single – to take a 1-0 lead. The only other hits he gave up were on bunt singles.

For his efforts, Wood dropped a second straight 1-0 game, after losing last Thursday to A.J. Burnett and the Phillies by the same score. He allowed only four hits over eight innings, walked none, and threw 75 of his 101 pitches for strikes.

It wasn’t enough to top Fernandez, though.

Chris Johnson singled to right field to lead off the eighth to break up a streak of 11 in a row retired by Fernandez, including five in a row at one point, via strikeout. Johnson’s hit was the Braves’ first since Jason Heyward took Fernandez to the opposite field for line drive to lead off the game.

Fernandez retired Dan Uggla and Evan Gattis on back-to-back strikeouts, leaving a solitary Braves fan of the 18,275 at Turner Field at Turner Field to implore Andrelton Simmons to “do something!” with his next at-bat. Simmons responded by beating out an infield hit to give the Braves only their second runner in scoring position on the night, the first time without the benefit of a balk. But Fernandez coaxed a groundout from Ryan Doumit to end the threat.

Not only was the Marlins’ 21-year-old right-hander bringing his impressive heat – touching 99 mph on the radar gun by the second inning – he was commanding his devastating breaking ball.

Fernandez got Justin Upton to swing and miss at one sweeping out of the strike zone, and then left Dan Uggla frozen at the plate, watching a third strike breaking ball catch the plate.

Watching it all from his couch was former Brave Chipper Jones, who tweeted: “Wow. Guys like this make me glad I retired. He is D-irt-eeee!”

For a full version of this story on myajc.com, complete with more reaction, click here.