MIAMI — Miami Marlins closer Steve Cishek has 92 saves to his name since 2011. Over the past three years, his 91.4 save percentage ranks sixth in the majors.
No. 93 was three outs away after Miami manufactured a run with three straight hits in the eighth inning of Monday’s lightning quick pitcher’s duel against the New York Mets at Marlins Park.
But then, as has happened against the Mets through the first five games of the season series, breaks took a turn in New York’s favor.
Marcell Ozuna misread Juan Lagares’ leadoff liner to right-center field, coming in before racing to try to catch up with the ball. It ended up finding the gap for a double.
"Every time he hit that way he hit a bloop," Ozuna said. "In the moment I thought the ball would be middle. (It went) right-center field, and I started running back and (it went) over me."
When asked whether Ozuna’s misplayed ball could have changed the complexion of the inning, manager Mike Redmond jokingly replied with, "that could?"
"That was a tough one," Redmond said. "Ball went over his head, so that’s a tough break. I still thought maybe we’d wiggle out of it, but they got the big hit. … The momentum changed there in the ninth no doubt."
Cishek walked Lucas Duda before Michael Cuddyer flied out to shallow right to set up the decisive at-bat. Daniel Murphy connected on Cishek’s third pitch for a three-run homer to right-center field in Miami’s 3-1 loss.
"Poor execution," Cishek said. "I had a plan for each guy I faced tonight and just two pitches that killed us, killed me. So, it’s tough, man, especially how well we’ve been playing, especially since the Mets swept us last series and really wanted to stick it to them this series. It falls on me.
"It all came down to poor execution. I got lucky with one or two pitches before where I just left it over the zone. So I just told myself run this off the plate and instead I tried to be too fine with it and left it right down the middle and he put a really good swing on it. Same with Murphy. I had a plan for him. I’ve typically in the past stuck with that plan and today I tried to do a little extra since I was in trouble, and it hurt.
"When you get a chance to close it out, that’s what the Marlins pay me to do, and I wasn’t able to do that for our team, our organization and for Cosart."
Right-hander Jarred Cosart, who was in line for the win after allowing just two hits in eight scoreless innings, gave a vote of confidence for Cishek. After all, Cishek’s resume is an impressive one.
Though Cishek is 1 for 3 in save opportunities this season, he is 92 of 104 (88 percent) since 2011. In 2014, he finished tied for eighth in the majors with 39 saves in 43 opportunities.
Cishek hasn’t had many chances so far in 2015 after avoiding arbitration with a $6.65 million deal. He didn’t collect his first save until Friday, and Monday marked just his seventh appearance in the team’s 19th game. Spanning 6 1/3 innings, Cishek has given up eight runs for an 11.37 ERA — but he had not allowed one in four consecutive outings — until Monday.
Last season, Cishek blew an early save against the Mets before rattling off 14 in a row. A rough final week before the All-Star break may have kept him out of the Midsummer Classic.
"I know it’s rough on him right now, but we need him this year," Cosart said. "That’s why we play 162. It stings a little bit now, but we’ve got two more against a division opponent and we’re going to see these guys a lot. It’s baseball.
"We want that situation anytime. We all have the utmost confidence in Steve. He’s got a ton of saves the past three to four years. I’m not discouraged by that at all. It’s just tough to lose, it stings a little bit, but if we have that situation again tomorrow we’re going right back to Steve ’cause we have the utmost confidence in his ability."