Two days after celebrating his 21st birthday, Fernandez again made it crystal clear that he is here to stay by turning in a record-setting performance.
Fernandez established a franchise rookie record with 14 strikeouts, and he chipped in with an RBI while completely stealing the show in the Marlins' 10-0 victory over the Indians in front of 17,731 at Marlins Park.
In eight innings, Fernandez scattered three hits and issued one walk, ironically to Indians right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.
The stellar performance snapped the Indians' eight-game winning streak, and it ran Miami's win streak to three. The Marlins also won back-to-back games by a shutout.
"He was on a mission today, and he's been ready to pitch and wanting to pitch since his last start," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "I think he went out there today against a great lineup and really just dominated. His command was phenomenal. You could tell from the first inning that he had it. He just went out there and executed his pitches. I told him, 'Hey, you might have finished that game if you didn't walk the pitcher.'"
Coupled with his 13 strikeouts on Sunday in a win over the Pirates, Fernandez became the first pitcher with at least 13 strikeouts in successive games since Randy Johnson in 2004. The last time a rookie matched the feat was Kerry Wood in 1998. And according to ESPN Stats Info, Fernandez is the fourth-youngest pitcher with back-to-back games of 13 strikeouts or more since 1900.
"He's not afraid to be great," said Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison, who had four hits and drove in four runs. "He loves the stage and really wants to be great. I know that's weird. What do you mean afraid to be great? He's a bulldog, dude, and I'm glad he's on my team."
An All-Star on a 43-65 Marlins squad, Fernandez improved to 8-5 with a 2.54 ERA. He continues to build a case to receive serious National League Rookie of the Year consideration. However, his chances might be diminished because he is on an innings limit of around 170. Now at 127 2/3 innings, he could be done after five more starts, or around Sept. 1.
Since giving up seven runs (four earned) in 3 1/3 innings against the Rays on May 27, Fernandez has simply dominated. In his last 11 starts, the Marlins' first-round Draft pick in 2010 is 6-2 with a 1.67 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings.
Miami is 9-2 in those games.
Immensely confident, but incredibly humbled, Fernandez takes nothing for granted. Five years ago he defected from his home in Cuba, and he has been driven to pursue excellence since he settled in Tampa, Fla., before joining the Marlins.
"Today, I'm going to enjoy," Fernandez said. "Tomorrow, I'm going to get back to work. Up here, the game will get you real quick. I don't want it to get me."
Although he is the youngest player on the team, Fernandez quickly is becoming a leader and one of the faces of the franchise.
He's so eager to get on the mound, that during the series with the Mets earlier in the week, he wanted to pitch after Miami lost the first two of four to New York.
Redmond chuckled at Fernandez's desire to take the mound three days after striking out 13 Pirates in eight innings.
"I told him, 'You have to wait your turn,'" Redmond said.
Like the rest of the Marlins, who endured a painful 14-41 start in April and May, Fernandez is enjoying the success of the past two months.
"I like to compete, like everybody in here," Fernandez said. "Nobody likes losing. This team is going to bring a lot of surprises. This year, we started horrible, like everybody knows. It's not a secret. But next year, there are a lot of people out there that I'm saying, 'Be careful.'"
Not only were the 14 strikeouts a personal high, they also are the most by any National League pitcher this season and are tied for the second most in the Majors.
The 14 strikeouts are the most by a rookie since Washington's Stephen Strasburg fanned as many on June 8, 2010, against the Pirates.
Fernandez also is the first starter since Zack Greinke (Aug. 25, 2009) to strike out 14 against the Indians.
"He's a pretty young kid as far as starts in the Major Leagues," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We saw the stuff, and he put it together tonight for eight innings. Unfortunately for us, that's as good a start as I think we've seen all year. He had everything."
Fernandez was throwing 97 mph in the seventh and eighth innings. He reaches back and hits 98 mph on occasion, and then repeatedly flips over curveballs and sliders.
"Thankfully, he's in the National League," Francona added.
For Fernandez, his list of achievements keeps piling up. Coupled with the 13 strikeouts on Sunday, Fernandez has 27 strikeouts over a two-start span. That's a Marlins record, surpassing 23 set by Ricky Nolasco in 2009.
Fernandez has now reached 10 or more strikeouts in four starts, becoming the first NL rookie since Cole Hamels in 2006 to accomplish the feat.
From the first batter, Fernandez set the tone, striking out Michael Bourn. Nick Swisher slapped a single to right field, and that was Cleveland's only hit until Asdrubal Cabrera doubled with one out in the seventh inning. Cabrera's hit snapped a string of 12 straight batters retired by the rookie.
After Swisher's single in the first inning, he realized that the Indians were in for a rough night.
"Swisher got on, and he's like, 'Man, this guy throws hard,'" Morrison said of his conversation with the Indians right fielder at first base. "Yeah, you haven't seen the slider yet, so watch out.' He was like, 'Yeah, I watched his last start, and I was thinking I had to get one early, because I don't know if I'll get one late.'"
Cleveland starters hadn't given up as many as five runs since July 6. But Miami put that number on Jimenez, who exited after four innings.
Three of the five runs Jimenez yielded were unearned, but the right-hander labored, allowing nine hits and throwing 107 pitches.
The Marlins entered the night not having scored more than three runs in three straight games, and they won two of them.
Miami broke it open with five runs in the eighth inning. Morrison had a two-run triple, while Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Marisnick each collected their third hit of the night.
"I love to get a chance every five days and compete," Fernandez said. "I love to play for the team, play for the fans. The fans have just been incredible. That, to me, it helps. Whoever tells you it doesn't help, it helps."