Heath Bell remained seated inside the Marlins bullpen throughout Saturdays ninth inning. Only time will tell whether that will remain the embattled closers permanent spot in crunch time.
For one night, anyhow, Steve Cishek was assigned the role by manager Ozzie Guillen.
And he delivered, recording the final five outs to preserve a 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals. Cishek worked the final two outs of the eighth and got through the ninth to nail down an important win for the Marlins against the first-place Nationals.
When I came in the dugout after the [eighth], he told me I was going to go back out and that got me fired up, Cishek said. I went through the process of getting mentally prepared to go out and throw another inning.
Cishek threw 28 pitches 21 of them for strikes so its possible he wouldnt be used again Sunday if the situation arises. But Guillen liked what he saw of the 26-year-old sidearmer and will likely turn to him again.
On the other hand, Guillen said he still hasnt ruled out giving the ball back to Bell.
When Guillen spoke with Bell on Saturday to explain his plans, he said he told the pitcher, Were a better ballclub with him on the mound but that hes got to work his way up.
Ill try to give him the opportunity to pitch his way back to the closers role, Guillen said.
It was a pitchers night at Marlins Park, where Mark Buehrle and Gio Gonzalez a Hialeah native who had a large contingent cheering him on among the crowd of 28,707 put up zero after zero on the scoreboard.
Gonzalez breezed through the first three innings, retiring the first nine hitters, five on strikeouts. The Marlins broke through in the fourth, though, after Jose Reyes led off the inning with a single and later scored on Carlos Lees single.
The Nationals tied it immediately in the fifth after Ian Desmond bunted his way on and scored on Jesus Flores bloop single to left.
But the Marlins regained the lead in the fifth when Emilio Bonifacio reached on a bunt, advanced to second on Donovan Solanos sacrifice bunt and scored on John Bucks sharp single to right.
Guillen said Solano missed a sign and wasnt supposed to bunt, but that it worked out in the end.
Buehrle worked seven innings to record his fourth consecutive victory and improve his record to 9-8. He also struck out seven, extending his string of striking out at least seven batters to four consecutive games.
Ive just been throwing well, and John Bucks been calling a great game, Buehrle said. Im still scratching my head, figuring out why Im striking all these guys out. I try to shoot for 100 every year just to get to triple digits. I dont know if its the ball moving a lot more now than it usually does. Theres no rhyme or reason why Im doing it.
After Buehrles exit, Randy Choate was brought in to face Bryce Harper for the lefty-lefty matchup and struck him out on three pitches.
Next in was Cishek, who got Ryan Zimmerman on a bouncer back to the mound and ended the eighth by whiffing Michael Morse on a called third strike.
Cishek got two quick outs in the ninth before giving up a single to Roger Bernadina, who promptly stole second. But Cishek ended the game by striking out Flores.
Must-win game against the team were chasing, Guillen said.
Said Cishek: When you play against the Nationals, you know its going to be a low-scoring game. Were down right now and every game is a must-win for us.