Jose Fernandez might be healthy and present after two seasons interrupted by injury, but he still hasn't been on the mound all that much.
The Miami Marlins ace has made it beyond six innings in one of his seven starts, something he'll try to change with a little efficiency Sunday as the Marlins close a road series with the Washington Nationals.
Fernandez (4-2, 3.54 ERA) has won his last three starts and is probably coming off his best. The right-hander, who made only 19 starts in the previous two seasons because of elbow reconstruction surgery, gave up four hits in seven scoreless innings of Monday's 4-1 home win over Milwaukee. He struck out 11 but still walked four and threw a season-high 110 pitches.
He's averaging 17.2 pitches per inning, which is up from his career mark of 15.2 entering the season. Manager Don Mattingly saw plenty of promise as the 23-year-old's outing wore on.
"(Fernandez) was getting smooth at the end," Mattingly told MLB's official website. "It was one of those outings where around 80 you could kind of see him smooth out. He was good."
He's been even better against the Nationals. Fernandez beat them April 18 to improve to 4-0 with a 1.05 ERA in seven career starts, though only one has come in Washington and was a no-decision in September.
Jayson Werth (1 for 16 with seven strikeouts) and Wilson Ramos (1 for 11) have struggled against him the most, while Clint Robinson is 2 for 3 with a home run.
Counterpart Joe Ross (3-2, 2.29), meanwhile, is coming off his worst start of the season. The right-hander gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings of Tuesday's 5-4 home loss to Detroit for his second straight defeat after opening the season with a 3-0 record and 0.79 ERA in four April starts.
"Fastball command wasn't there," Ross said. "It was tough. I fell behind. When you need to pitch in a big spot, it wasn't really there."
The soon-to-be 23-year-old is 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA in four games against the Marlins, and the win was a 4-2 home final April 10 in which Ross held them to a run and five hits in seven innings.
Miami (19-17) gave itself a shot to salvage a split with Saturday's 7-1 win in Game 2 of a doubleheader after losing the matinee 6-4. It'd be the clubs' third split of the season after chopping two on April 7 and 10 before they each won two from April 18-21.
The Marlins, who have dropped five of eight, are trying to get back on track after winning 11 of 12 before the recent falloff. Game 2 on Saturday was the first time they'd scored more than four runs since that hot span.
Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna each had three hits, and the latter is batting .446 on a 14-game hitting streak.
The Nationals (23-14) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, though Daniel Murphy stayed hot. The second baseman was 2 for 4 and is batting .463 in his last 13 games.