Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez made his final start of the 2013 season on Wednesday night at Marlins Park against the Braves. He went out with a bang.
Pumping easy high-90s fastballs and wicked off-speed stuff, the 21-year-old right-hander held first-place Atlanta to to one run on five hits over seven innings while striking out five in what wound up as a 5-2 victory for Miami. Fernandez also contributed offensively, slapping a fourth-inning single to center field and cranking his first career home run — a solo shot — in the sixth inning. He watched the homer fly, flipped his bat and then appeared to spit near the third base bag, prompting a benches-clearing reaction from the Braves. No punches were thrown and no ejections were handed out. Here’s the replay:
Fernandez — the likely Rookie of the Year in the National League — will finish his first big league season with a 2.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings. As noted by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, that 2.19 ERA is the best mark from a starter in his age-20 season since Doc Gooden (1.53) in 1985.
As per tradition, towards the end of the regular season, veterans on baseball’s various clubs haze the rookies by making them dress up and do something a bit embarrassing. That used to include things like making rookies dress up like women and carry pink backpacks, but Major League Baseball banned that practice, so veterans had to get marginally more creative.
The Phillies had their rookies — including Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams — dress up like characters in Grease and perform “Greased Lightning” at their hotel in Atlanta on Friday night. Not only did the Phils’ vets and other members of the crew get a free show, but so did employees of the hotel and nearby hotel patrons.
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As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, Hoskins was the inspiration for the gag as he has earned the nickname “Rhys Lightning.” (Rhys, for the uninitiated, rhymes with “Grease.”) Hoskins said, “You always hear about team chemistry. I think stuff like that let’s you get to know guys on a different level, when you’re not at the field. You just become more personable with people. The better relationships you have, there’s a different level of playing for each other. And I think that’s usually a sign of a good team.”
The Twins also had some fun at the rookies’ expense:
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge went yard twice in Sunday afternoon’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, bringing his season total up to 48. That leaves him just one home run shy of tying the single-season rookie record set by Mark McGwire with the Athletics in 1987.
After Sunday’s performance, Judge is hitting .281/.416/.610 with 48 home runs, 105 RBI, and 122 runs scored in 651 plate appearances. He has the AL Rookie of the Year Award on lock and is neck-and-neck with the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, and the Indians’ Corey Kluber in the AL MVP Award race.