Saturday had all the makings of a perfect day for Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins’ 20-year-old, highly touted rookie picked up his mom, Maritza Gomez, from the airport in the morning and enjoyed a nice lunch with her on the Miami waterfront.
Then, with his mom in the crowd at Marlins Park, Fernandez pitched seven scoreless innings, struck out eight, smacked two hits and drove in a run in Miami’s 8-1 win over the New York Mets in the second game of a three-game series.
“I’m pretty happy about everything that happened today,” Fernandez said after the Marlins’ second straight win following a nine-game losing streak. “Today was a special day.”
Fernandez (3-3) retired all but four of the batters he faced, a far cry from the 10 Tampa Bay hitters who reached base during his rough 3 1/3-inning outing Monday in St. Petersburg.
He threw 60 of 87 pitches for strikes and never encountered a jam against the Mets.
Maybe it’s the matchup: In three starts this season against New York, the right-handed Fernandez has thrown 16 innings, allowing three runs on nine hits with 20 strikeouts against five walks.
“It’s always a learning experience for him,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. “He has tremendous stuff. The more confidence he gets, the better he’s going to get.”
The Marlins, who have scored eight runs or more four times all season, average three runs a game when Fernandez starts.
Saturday’s game, with the roof closed and an announced attendance of 16,283, felt much different.
Miami (15-41) slapped 12 hits, turning the game into a rout with a four-run seventh inning. The way Fernandez pitched, the four runs the Marlins collected over the game’s opening four innings seemed like enough.
Rookie right fielder Marcell Ozuna went hitless and lost his 16-game hitting streak, which was the longest running streak in baseball, but seven other Marlins picked up at least one hit.
Chris Coghlan had three hits and knocked in two runs. Adeiny Hechavarria also had two RBIs, as did Derek Dietrich, whose paltry .230 batting average got a boost from his two singles. Placido Polanco whistled two singles, too.
Perhaps the most obvious sign that Saturday would be Miami’s day: Catcher Jeff Mathis, who was 1-for-22 in his first seven games of the season, smashed a run-scoring triple to right-center in the fourth.
“Everybody wants the same thing,” said Mathis, who started his second consecutive game. “It’s fun anytime you win a ball game, score some runs and pitch well.”
The scoring burst for the league’s worst offense came after Redmond told reporters that slugger Giancarlo Stanton was “getting close” to starting a rehabilitation assignment after missing the last month with a strained hamstring.
For the second consecutive day, Stanton completed batting practice, showing no signs of the soreness in his knees that worried Miami earlier in the week.
The chiseled power hitter didn’t exactly crush the ball during his session, but he did hit in the same BP group as Fernandez, who watched closely.
“Most feel like a 10-year-old standing next to him,” Fernandez said of the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Stanton.
Stanton’s presence must have rubbed off on the Marlins’ young righty, who now leads Miami’s pitchers in nearly every batting category after Saturday’s offensive breakout.
“You want to help yourself out there,” Fernandez said. “That’s really it.”