"I felt like Jose, early on in that game, he had it," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "He had it going. You could see by their swings he was on tonight."
Marlins closer Steve Cishek finished the three-hit shutout with his 33rd straight save. Once two runners reached base in the bottom of the eighth and drove Fernandez's pitch count up to 109, going to Cishek in the ninth became an easy decision.
"After that runner got on base in the eighth, I knew that was going to be an easier decision," Redmond said. "But [Fernandez] pitched great, gave us exactly what we needed after a tough loss last night. In my mind, I was hoping he would give us eight innings. He did that."
Even Fernandez, who never wants to hand over the baseball, knew bringing in the red-hot Cishek was best for the club.
"In the heat of the moment I want to go out there," Fernandez said. "I think they saw something, so why not put our closer in the game? He's one of the best in the game."
Fernandez exited the game in the midst of an ongoing stretch that has seen him strike out at least one batter in 14 consecutive innings dating back to last Wednesday's start against the Nationals. The ace has fanned 24 batters and walked none during that stretch.
Although Fernandez's fastball touched 100 mph in the first inning, his curveball was the pitch that got results. It was the third strike for 11 of the 14 batters he fanned. According to FanGraphs, 141 of Fernandez's 220 career strikeouts entering Tuesday night's game ended with his curveball.
"It's a tremendous weapon for him," Redmond said. "I think it's one of those things where we've talked to him about not using it too much early on and making sure he comes out and uses his fastball to get ahead. But today he got a great fastball-hitting team. And it was a great matchup for him. He was able to throw his breaking ball on a lot of fastball counts and got a lot of swings on it and a lot of strikeouts."
Before the game, however, Fernandez had no idea his breaking ball would turn out to be so effective.
"My breaking ball in the bullpen was horrible, horrible," Fernandez said. "I thought, 'When they say play ball, hopefully it gets better.'"
While Fernandez was dealing, so was Braves starter Alex Wood, who has suffered back-to-back 1-0 losses. He took a hard-luck defeat opposite Fernandez's gem, giving up one run and fanning a career-high 11 in eight strong innings.
Fernandez, Wood, Cishek and David Carpenter struck out 28 and issued zero walks for the most combined strikeouts without a base on balls by two teams in a single game since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It was a lot of fun going out there and competing against a guy like Fernandez," Wood said. "He's got electric stuff as we saw tonight. It [stinks] being on the wrong end of it, but that's as fun as it gets for me."
"Wood pitched his tail off, man," said Casey McGehee, who plated the game's only run with an RBI single in the top of the fourth. "He had his changeup going. He didn't use his breaking ball a ton, but when he did, it was effective. He got us to chase some pitches out of the zone."
McGehee's single brought home Giancarlo Stanton, who reached base on a one-out double against Wood.
"The changeup I threw [Stanton], it was early in the count," Wood said. "Maybe the ball could have been down a little bit more, but it was still down. That ball is still two inches off the plate. For him to get that kind of wood on it and pull it down the line like that, you don't get any better than that from a hitting standpoint. You can't take it back, because it was a good pitch. He's just a heck of a hitter."
Miami's other two hits came from Fernandez and Christian Yelich, who extended his career-best hitting streak to 16 games with a bunt single in the first.
Hits clearly were at a premium for the Braves, who put only two runners in scoring position. One of them came on a balk by Fernandez in the fourth.
Jason Heyward, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons can one day tell their grandchildren about the night they got a hit off Fernandez, who at one point struck out five consecutive batters and kept sluggers Justin Upton, Dan Uggla and Evan Gattis off the basepaths entirely with three strikeouts apiece.
The hits from Johnson and Simmons helped Atlanta generate an eighth-inning rally that ultimately fell short, as Fernandez retired pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit on a comebacker to the mound to end the Braves' lone legitimate offensive threat of the night.
"It was nice to get that knock -- anything off that guy," Johnson said. "Anything in play is good. It really is, all kidding aside. If you square a ball up against that guy, you go back to the dugout feeling cool."