Jose Fernandez is a major contender for the NL Rookie of the Year Award, giving the Miami Marlins hope for a better future.
Fellow rookie Julio Teheran is likely focused on a bigger prize for the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.
In what's expected to be one of his final starts of the season, Fernandez attempts to become the first Marlins rookie in 10 years to win six straight decisions Friday night when he faces the Braves for the first time.
The Marlins (49-83) are all but assured of finishing at the bottom of the East, and have dropped eight of nine after falling 9-0 at Washington on Thursday.
Fernandez (10-5, 2.30 ERA), though, is giving them reason for optimism.
The 21-year-old phenom has already emerged as Miami's ace, leading rookies with 165 strikeouts while ranking third among all pitchers in ERA.
Fernandez has a 1.33 ERA while winning all five decisions over his last eight starts, striking out 66 in 54 innings. The right-hander now has a chance to become the first Marlins rookie to win six straight decisions since Dontrelle Willis had an eight-game run from May 25-July 13, 2003.
After holding the Dodgers and Rockies to a combined one earned run over 13 innings - striking out 16 - in two starts last week, Fernandez was named NL Player of the Week for the second time as he shared the honor with the Chicago Cubs' Jeff Samardzija.
Despite Fernandez's staggering rise and increasing popularity, the Marlins have him on an innings limit that could mean he has just two starts left. That could hurt his chances at becoming the first Marlins pitcher to win rookie of the year honors since Willis.
"I don't really think about that stuff," Fernandez told the team's official website. "As long as I keep giving my team a chance to win, co-Player of the Week, Rookie of the Year, all that stuff, I don't care. It's just play for this team, and as long as we win, that's what I care about."
Fernandez should catch a break in his first look at the Braves. Justin Upton, Atlanta's leader with 24 homers and second with 64 RBIs, is expected to be out of the lineup after being hit on the hand by a pitch Thursday.
Like Fernandez, Teheran (10-7, 3.08) is probably also more concerned with his team's success during his stellar rookie season, but the Braves (81-52) are comfortably headed to the postseason and own the best record in baseball.
The right-hander is looking to get untracked after allowing four runs and two homers with eight strikeouts and a season-high five walks in a 6-2 loss at St. Louis on Saturday. He had been 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA over his previous six starts.
"It's not that he didn't have it," catcher Brian McCann told the team's official website. "He just wasn't as sharp as he has been in the past."
Teheran is 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against Miami.
McCann is hitting .344 with five homers and 15 RBIs over his last 17 home meetings with the Marlins, going 8 for 18 with two homers while plating five runs in five games this year.
He enters this meeting 7 for 16 with five RBIs in the last four games at Turner Field, with two of those hits leaving the park. That includes a three-run homer in Thursday's 3-1 win over Cleveland as the Braves' winning streak reached four games.
Freddie Freeman, who has a nagging knee injury, likely will be back after being used as a pinch runner Thursday. The All-Star first baseman has a .395 average in nine games versus Miami this season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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