Injuries have sidelined Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez most of the last two seasons, but the Washington Nationals can vouch for his effectiveness when healthy.
Fernandez has dominated in a small sample size this year, including wins in both tries against the Nationals, and he'll go up against fellow ace Max Scherzer on Friday night when Miami continues a four-game series in Washington.
Fernandez (5-0, 2.06 ERA) missed most of 2014 and the first three months of 2015 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and he had a more recent stint on the disabled list with a right biceps strain.
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He returned Saturday and held Washington to two hits through five innings of a 2-0 win. Fernandez also beat the Nationals on July 28, giving up a run and four hits in six innings, and he's 3-0 with a 0.58 ERA in five career starts against them.
"You can see when Jose pitches, the team is different," said closer A.J. Ramos, who picked up his 28th save in Thursday's 6-4 series-opening win. "He brings something to this team that nobody can explain. It's uplifting. We just follow his lead."
Bryce Harper singled for one of the two hits off Fernandez but also struck out looking at a 99 mph fastball in the first inning.
"When you come back and you're throwing 99 mph, it's usually pretty tough," said Harper, who had his fourth consecutive multihit game Thursday but failed to homer in a fourth straight.
All of Fernandez's starts against the Nationals, though, have come at Marlins Park, where he is 16-0 with a 1.11 ERA. On the road, his record drops to 5-8 while his ERA rises to 3.86.
The script is flipped for Scherzer (12-11, 2.91). The Nationals (75-71) have dropped five of his last six starts at home, and he has a 6.16 ERA in the past three. He has a 2.25 ERA in the last three on the road, most recently throwing eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Miami to halt a seven-start winless streak.
"Overall I thought over the past month or so I have been throwing the ball well, I just haven't gotten the results," said Scherzer, who hasn't issued a walk in four consecutive starts while striking out 30.
The Marlins (64-83), though, have tagged Scherzer for nine runs and 16 hits in 14 innings at Nationals Park this year. He's surrendered eight home runs in his last three starts in D.C., including one apiece to Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna as Miami scored four runs off Scherzer to beat him on Aug. 28.
Prado and Justin Bour both homered for the second straight game Thursday as Miami dropped the Nationals eight games back of the New York Mets for the NL East lead.
Prado is batting .390 with 14 RBIs in his last 16 games, and he's 9 for 19 with two doubles and a homer versus Scherzer. Miami's third baseman has 20 hits in 60 at-bats against Washington this season.
Fernandez has held Ian Desmond to 0 for 14, Jayson Werth to 1 for 12 and Wilson Ramos 1 for 8. Werth has reached base in 26 straight games, one shy of a career high.