MIAMI — The game meant little in the standings. Yet as the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves faced the team with the league’s worst record, they found themselves in a bench-clearing standoff.
“It was crazy, huh?” third baseman Chris Johnson said. “Tempers were high.”
Rookie Jose Fernandez aggravated the Braves with his demonstrative behavior while pitching the Miami Marlins to a 5-2 victory Wednesday.
“When you watch him pitch, there are some things he does on the field that you can do without,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said.
Fernandez was in no mood to celebrate the victory to end his marvelous season. Instead he trudged through a quiet stadium hallway to seek out the Braves so he could apologize for his behavior.
Fernandez hit his first major-league homer, but he drew a rebuke from his manager for showboating, and precipitated the standoff with the Braves.
“I feel embarrassed,” the 21-year-old Fernandez said. “I feel like I don’t deserve to be here, because this isn’t high school. This is a professional game. I made a mistake. I’m going to learn from it.”
The game was the last of the season for Fernandez because he passed his 170-inning limit set by the Marlins. A top candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, he finished 12-6 with an ERA of 2.19, second-lowest in the majors behind only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. He went 9-0 in 15 home starts.
But he wasn’t happy with the way he finished.
“I had a good year, and it ends up like this,” he said sheepishly. “I embarrassed a lot of people. It’s just not right for the game. For sure I can promise 120 percent that that will never ever happen again. I won’t show anybody up like that.”
Leading 4-0, Fernandez became agitated in the sixth inning, when the Braves scored their only run off him on Evan Gattis’ home run. Fernandez reacted with a cocky grin, and the Braves let him know they didn’t appreciate his expression.
“Somebody hits off him, and he smiles,” Braves pitcher Mike Minor said. “It seems like you’re not supposed to get a hit off of him.”
Fernandez stared at the Atlanta bench muttering as he walked off the mound to end the inning, then waved his arms in agitation in the dugout.
When he homered a short time later, he stood admiring the hit before slowly starting into his trot. He spat as he rounded third base as Johnson said something to him.
“He stood there for a while, and that’s disrespectful to Mike,” Johnson said. “That was bad.”
As Fernandez crossed the plate, he traded words with McCann. Umpire Sam Holbrook stepped between them, and other players quickly joined the dispute.
Fernandez laughed as he was pulled away by teammates, and the crowd of 25,111 roared. Shoves were swapped but no punches were evident, and no one was ejected.
“I think he realized that he messed up,” McCann said. “I think emotions got the best of him.”
Fernandez agreed. He sought out McCann and Minor after the game.
“I said, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m embarrassed and that’s something that won’t ever happen again,’” Fernandez said. “McCann said, ‘Hey, man, you’re a kid but you’re in the big leagues. You need to do what big leaguers do.’”
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said he talked with Fernandez after the game and was certain there would be no more showboating by the youngster.
“Tonight showed some immaturity on Josie’s part,” Redmond said. “Showing the other team up with a home run, that’s not what we’re doing here. We’re 30-some games under .500. We don’t have the right to be flashy or show anybody up.”
The crowd of 25,111 had no problem with Fernandez’s theatrics. When he slowly walked off the mound for the final time after the seventh, he removed his cap as fans gave him a standing ovation.
He allowed five hits and struck out five. Two relievers pitched the final two innings.
Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton hit his 20th homer and drove in three runs off Minor (13-7), who allowed four earned runs in six innings.