One just had to look at Saturday’s Spring Training pitching matchups in order to feel those opening day chills. The afternoon tilt between the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins showcased the battle of two future perennial Cy Young Award nominees. Split squad or not, the crowd was in for a treat. All eyes became focused on planet Jupiter, Fla.
It’s a scary thought when you realize Stephen Strasburg has yet to reach his full potential, the Clayton Kershaw hype-machine has taken over the spotlight once held by the Nationals’ franchise firearm.
Last season’s dominant performance was perceived in a different fashion by most, as Washington’s 3.4 run-per-game offense (when the staff ace took the mound) was a weekly letdown for the power righty, amounting in a sub-.500 win-loss record. The peripherals, however, were as always, rock-solid. Highlighted by a second-half lineup cruise, posting a 0.94 WHIP and only 19 walks in 74 innings. Old school Montreal Expos‘ fans are having visions of what might have been. Kershaw, beware.
Enter Jose Fernandez, the closet thing to a Strasburg clone the majors has seen in quite a while. The arsenal and command of all of his pitches are strikingly similar (58 walks in 172.2 innings and a 9.7 K/9), culminating in Fernandez earning an All-Star nod in his inaugural season. One of the only things holding this budding superstar back from reaching a national level of acclaim is the inadequacy of the franchise he takes the hill for.
Help is on the way, however, and if ownership can stick with one direction, a core could be built, resulting in some light at the end of this tunnel. Allowing Fernandez to truly shine.
Both went four innings deep on Saturday afternoon to form an eight-inning, one-run, eight-K combined line, and we’ll be seeing plenty of those from each of them when the regular season hits. Although, this was not just an episode of spring cleaning, but rather a precursor to the 2014 fight for Cy Young supremacy. Not to mention setting the tone for an epic NL East pitcher’s duel for years to come.