Wherever Jose Fernandez goes, attention follows.
The reigning National League Rookie of the Year has shown no signs of slumping in his sophomore season. Quite the opposite has occurred. The Marlins' 21-year-old ace is fresh off being named NL Pitcher of the Month for April.
"At the beginning of the year, everybody was wondering how this guy was going to do in his second season," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "He pretty much answered that."
If there is an area of vulnerability for Fernandez, it is his performances away from Marlins Park, where he is 12-0 in his career with a 1.09 ERA. This year, the hard-throwing right-hander is even better, sporting a minuscule 0.78 ERA and 3-0 mark at home.
However, in two road starts, Fernandez is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA heading into Friday night's outing against the Padres at Petco Park.
This is Fernandez's second appearance of the season against the Padres.
The season was five days old when the Padres got their first look this season at Fernandez, and what a look it was. The young ace allowed three hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in a 5-0 victory on April 5 at Marlins Park.
Just over a month later, the Padres get another look at Fernandez, who has had only one clunker -- six runs against the Phillies on April 11 -- through seven starts.
No, this isn't what the Padres, baseball's lowest-scoring team, probably need right now.
"That guy is getting a lot of acclaim," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's legit. He's got size and strength, he can spin the ball, has a good delivery. He's very athletic."
There's something else Fernandez does that stood out to Black, a former pitcher himself.
"He pitches with a lot of aggressiveness," Black said. "He attacks. He sets the tone."
As one of MLB's youngest and brightest stars, Fernandez continues to pitch like a veteran.
"We're still young," Fernandez said. "But to me, that was never an excuse. It's not an excuse to be young. There is a reason you're in the big leagues. You're here to do a job."
Fernandez won't be the only pitcher with an electric arm in the ballpark Friday, as Tyson Ross will start for the Padres.
Ross, who might have the best slider in the National League, is coming off a Sunday start against the D-backs where he allowed one earned run in seven innings with five strikeouts.
"My slider was working well and I got a lot of ground balls, and the defense was good behind me," Ross said.
Padres: Bullpen continues to shine
The San Diego relievers continue to shine this season. And by now, that should surprise no one.
The Padres' bullpen entered the series against the Marlins with a 6-1 record and 1.95 ERA over 111 innings. Opponents entered Thursday night's game hitting .209. Both rankings -- ERA and opponents average -- place the Padres second in the Major Leagues behind only the Giants (1.81 ERA, .201 average).
Since April 9, the Padres' bullpen has held opponents without an earned run in 19 of 27 games with a 1.53 ERA and a .196 opponents average.
"They're capable of stretches like this," Black said. "They've done yeoman's work to a man. All of those guys have contributed."
Marlins: Too early to scoreboard watch
When the Marlins left the field Thursday night after a 3-1 victory at Petco Park, they found themselves alone in first place atop the NL East.
Obviously, no rewards are given for your place in the standings after the first week of May.
Still, for an organization coming off a 100-loss season and three straight last-place finishes, the current standings show progress.
"We've got a long way to go," Redmond said. "There is a lot of season left. But as a ballclub, we've overcome a lot already."
The club hasn't forgotten they lost eight straight early in the year. So the direction easily could have tilted the other way.
"We knew we were really close in a lot of those games," Redmond said. "We knew once we tightened up some of the areas where we weren't getting the job done, we'd get over that. We did that over the course of the homestand."
Miami was boosted by an 8-1 stretch at home where the swept the Braves, took two of three from the Dodgers and swept the Mets before heading west.
"I like where we are right now, and each day brings something different," Redmond said. "This is a tough road trip, and a long road trip for East Coast teams coming west. We've got our work cut out for us."
• Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton finished 2013 with 62 RBIs. He already has 40, which is tops in the Majors. He also has eight game-winning RBIs.
• The Marlins are riding a five-game winning streak, a season high. Their longest last year was four games.
• Ian Kennedy's 12 strikeouts Thursday night for the Padres matched his career high.
• The Padres have played an MLB-leading 25 games decided by two runs or fewer.