MIAMI — Marlins closer Steve Cishek paced the dugout rather than the bullpen during the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday night.
With two men on against reliever A.J. Ramos in the top half of the frame, manager Mike Redmond elected to go with Cishek for the four-out save.
Knowing Andrelton Simmons is a good fastball hitter who rarely strikes out, Cishek went to his slider out of the zone. He walked Simmons to load the bases, but fanned pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena to end the threat.
Cishek then worked a perfect ninth to preserve a 5-4 victory that clinched Miami’s first home sweep of the Braves since June 2006.
”I try not to change it too much,” said Cishek, who collected his sixth save of the season on 20 pitches. ”Extra up and down, but they’re counting on me to get the job done. I wasn’t tired per se, but you’ve just got to dig deep and find a way to get it done for the guys.”
Down by a run in the seventh, the Marlins opened with back-to-back singles off Ian Thomas. Atlanta brought in David Carpenter, who surrendered a pair of one-out RBI singles to Giancarlo Stanton and Casey McGehee.
Last week, Carpenter retired that duo over three at-bats.
”For the most part this year we’ve done a really good job even if we’ve gotten down to give ourselves a chance to come back,” said McGehee, who recorded his 300th career RBI earlier in the game. ”Sometimes it’s not going to happen, but I think all in all we’ve done a good job of putting ourselves in situations to give ourselves a chance late in games. Fortunately tonight we got some hits that were big.”
That set things up for Ramos.
Entering Thursday’s game, the ballclub had given up 20 runs (18 earned) in the eighth — the most in any inning this season.
Although Ramos boasts a 0.75 ERA, Justin Upton led off with a double. Following a pair of flyouts, he moved to third on a wild pitch. Ramos walked Chris Johnson before Redmond went for the switch.
The second-year manager and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez had discussed the idea of getting Cishek a multi-inning save when the right situation arose.
It arrived on Thursday for the righty, who hadn’t pitched since Saturday in a win over the Mets.
”If that perfect situation would come up we would use it,” Redmond said. ”We were preparing for it in case they got a couple runners on. … It all sort of came together and it worked out.”
The last time Cishek earned a multi-inning save was Aug. 26, 2012 against the Dodgers when he relieved former closer Heath Bell. In that situation, two men were on with two outs. Cishek also walked a batter before getting a flyout.
Last season, the 27-year-old gave up at least a run in two of his three outings that lasted more than an inning.
When he first earned his major-league call-up at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, three of his five appearances went at least two innings.
Miami’s fourth comeback win of the season also brought the club back to .500 for the first time since April 10 in the midst of an eight-game losing skid. The last-place Marlins made a statement, outscoring the first-place Braves 23-7 in the three-game series.
”It felt like last year when I went out for the second inning in a tie ballgame,” said Cishek, who improved to 3 for 4 in save opportunities of more than a frame. ”I tried to keep it the same like that, have the same approach when I used to throw multiple innings when I first got called up.
”I know what it takes to get myself ready to go back out for another one. With a save situation it’s a little easier to get motivated than a non-save situation. I was ready to go.”