Steve Cishek had restored calm and order to the ninth inning for the Marlins. He had taken over for embattled closer Heath Bell and, when called upon, preserved one win after another. He had reeled off 10 consecutive saves without once failing.
But that streak ended in haze of smoke Saturday as the Mets erupted for four runs in the ninth for a 5-3 victory at Marlins Park.
With the bases loaded in the ninth and the Marlins clinging to a 3-2 lead, Cishek gave up two-out single to Kelly Shoppach that got past center fielder Justin Ruggiano for an error and enabled three Mets runs to score.
“I didn’t fool anyone today,” Cishek said.
The comeback win for the Mets prevented Josh Johnson, who was exceptional Saturday, from ending a personal four-game losing slide. And it dug the Marlins into an even deeper last-place hole in the National League East.
The Marlins looked to have the game safely in hand after Carlos Lee gave them a 3-1 lead with a run-scoring single in the eighth. The Mets had managed only three hits off Johnson, who was taken out following the eighth after throwing 105 pitches.
But, with Johnson out of the picture, the Mets went to work on Cishek, who gave up back-to-back singles to start the ninth and, one out later, an RBI single to Lucas Duda that made it 3-2.
After Andres Torres walked to load the bases, Shoppach laced a hard single up the middle. The tying run scored easily but Ruggiano, hoping to make a throw home to get the go-ahead runner, took his eye off the ball and it skipped past him.
While Cishek had not blown a save since June 16, it was his first failed save assignment since taking over for Bell in the ninth-inning role on a full-time basis.
“Cishek had been pitching so well for us all year long,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “But they put a good inning together.”
Said Cishek: “It’s disappointing. They squared it up pretty good, ground balls didn’t find anyone, and they got the job done. The team battled to the ninth inning, and it hurts a lot.”
Cishek was one strike from getting out of the ninth. With two outs and the count 2-2 on Torres, Cishek threw a fastball that was a borderline pitch. But home plate umpire Jerry Meals called it a ball, and Torres ended up working a walk out of the at-bat.
“It was a close pitch,” Cishek said. “It could have gone either way.”
The loss spoiled Johnson’s stellar effort. Johnson, who had given up six runs in only three innings against the Dodgers in his prior start, didn’t allow a hit until the fifth and gave up only three total hits through eight innings.
“I changed a few things in my delivery,” Johnson said. “I closed up a little longer to hide the ball a little longer. Felt good out there.”
Johnson, who has been consistently topping out at about 93 mph this season, touched 95 more than once Saturday.
“I think that little mechanical thing I fixed, it definitely helps out,” Johnson said. “It helps me kind of save all the energy and take it straight to the plate.”
But Johnson’s performance went for naught in the ninth.
“He’s been throwing the ball really well,” Johnson said of Cishek. “So I was a little bit surprised. But that’s kind of how things have been going for us.”