MLB Notebook: Marlins' Fernandez an ace at 21
Right-hander tosses eight scoreless innings in second straight start vs. Braves
In 1916, a 21-year-old southpaw with the name Babe Ruth began his season on April 12, and in Boston's Opening Day victory, he went the first 8 1/3 innings, allowed one unearned run on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks, and picked up the win. Ruth also added a sacrifice bunt in an 0-for-2 day at the plate.
Ruth would make three more starts for the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in that first month, and he would pick up a win in each of them, while adding another 27 innings of five-run ball. And so at the end of April, Ruth's record stood at 4-0 with a 1.27 ERA.
In the succeeding years, only three other pitchers working in their age-21 season have entered May with at least four victories and an ERA below 1.60: Vida Blue during his magical season in 1971, Dwight Gooden in the year ('86) after his historic season, and a current Marlins hurler named Jose Fernandez, who can add a mightily impressive March/April in 2014 to his growing list of magical and historic accomplishments.
Fernandez goes eight scoreless vs. Braves … again
On Tuesday, Fernandez allowed two hits and two walks while fanning eight in eight scoreless frames, and he improved to 4-1 in a 9-0 win over the Braves.
In his previous start -- also against the Braves -- Fernandez worked eight innings of three-hit, no-run ball and struck out 14 with no walks. In his 34-game career, Fernandez has had four starts with at least eight scoreless innings and no more than three hits allowed. Since 1914, he is one of five pitchers to have four such outings (no one has more) through 34 appearances: Blue, Ray Culp, Al Downing and Bob Milacki are the other four.
Fernandez has posted a 1.59 ERA thus far this season. Dating back to 1914, he is one of 22 pitchers to be in their age-21 season and have a month (or a March/April or September/October) with at least four victories and an ERA south of 1.60. He is the first to do it since another Marlins hurler -- Dontrelle Willis -- was 5-0 with a 1.04 ERA in June 2003, and is the first to do it in a March/April since Gooden in 1986 (4-0, 1.26 ERA).
Simon rolls at expense of tough-luck Samardzija
Behind starter Alfredo Simon's six innings of two-run ball, the Reds defeated the Cubs, with Chicago starter Jeff Samardzija (5 2/3 innings, three runs) taking the loss.
With the effort, Simon improved to 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA. He is one of five Reds pitchers since 1914 to enter May with at least four wins and an ERA at or below 1.60, joining Jim O'Toole in 1963 (4-1 with a 1.54 ERA), Mario Soto in '85 (4-1 with a 1.50 ERA), Jack Armstrong in '90 (4-0 with a 1.40 ERA) and Edinson Volquez in 2008 (4-0 with a 1.23 ERA). Samardzija fell to 0-3 on the year and saw his ERA rise to 1.98. Since 1914, Samardzija is one of 801 pitchers with at least six starts in a March/April. Of those 801, he is one of 53 to own an ERA below 2.00, and the first Cubs pitcher among the 53.
Of the 801 pitchers with at least six starts in a March/April, Samardzija is one of 56 to go winless, and the third Cubs hurler among the 56, joining Carlos Zambrano in 2006 and Edwin Jackson in '13. Samardzija is also one of only three of the 801 to have a sub-2.00 ERA without a win. In 1984, San Francisco's Bill Laskey was 0-3 in six starts with a 1.98 ERA, while in '98, the Brewers' Cal Eldred entered May with no wins and no losses in six starts while holding a 1.67 ERA.
Abreu gives extra effort
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu collected his seventh double of the season in Chicago's 4-3 loss to the Tigers. The two-bagger gave Abreu 18 extra-base hits -- the most since 1914 in a March/April for any first-year player. Albert Pujols had 17 in 2001.
The 18 extra-base hits are tied for the 18th most for any first-year player in any monthly split. Bob Meusel holds the top mark, with 24 in July 1920. Joe DiMaggio ('36) holds the high total for any May (23), while June's supreme total (23) belongs to Mandy Brooks ('25) and August's (23) was claimed by Pujols in 2001. With 19 in 1939, Ted Williams has the high mark for a September/October.
Here and there
• In the Rockies' 5-4 win over the D-backs, Troy Tulowitzki hit his seventh home run, drove in two runs and also added a single and a walk. Tulowitzki owns a 1.239 OPS -- the highest mark in the Majors, and a value that would rank among the top five in Colorado's franchise history for a March/April (minimum 75 plate appearances).
Hot start for Tulo
• In danger of dropping their first game when scoring at least four runs, the Royals used a six-run eighth inning to push ahead and eventually defeat the Blue Jays, 10-7. Kansas City is now 13-0 when plating at least four runs and 0-12 when held to three or less than three.
• Athletics southpaw Scott Kazmir allowed three runs in a five-inning stint that pushed his ERA up to 2.11, be he also picked up his fourth victory in the A's 9-3 win over the Rangers. He is one 10 A's pitchers since 1914 to close out a March/April with at least four wins and no losses, and among this group, he owns the seventh lowest ERA. Matt Keough set the team mark with a 1.00 ERA in 1981.
• Toronto's Jose Bautista hit his eighth home run of the year and drew a pair of walks. Bautista has 29 walks this season, the most in the Majors and a significant contributor to his .470 on-base percentage (second in the Majors to Tulowitzki's .486). The highest on-base mark for a Blue Jays player in a March/April (minimum 75 plate appearances) came from Bautista in 2011, when he posted a .532 mark. Bautista in '14 and Barry Bonds in '02 and '04 are the only players since 1914 to have a March/April with at least 29 walks and at least eight home runs. In 2004, Bonds owned a .696 on-base percentage heading into May.
• The Brewers topped the Cardinals, 5-4, in extra innings and improved to 20-7. Milwaukee is the 19th team in the past 30 seasons to win at least 20 of its first 27 contests. Five teams won 21 of 27, while the rest won 20. Those five: the 1986 Mets, '90 Athletics, '98 Yankees, 2001 Mariners and '03 Yankees -- all postseason teams. Of the 13 previous teams to win 20 of 27, all but four reached the postseason (when there was a postseason -- the 1994 Red Sox are on this list): the '87 Brewers, '95 Phillies, 2001 Twins and '02 Red Sox.
Roger Schlueter is senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.