The one thing the Marlins had been able to count on finally had a moment of weakness.
Steve Cishek, who had a franchise-record streak of 33 consecutive saves, blew his first one in nine months Friday night as the Mets rallied for two runs in the ninth to beat the Marlins 4-3 in heartbreaking walk-off fashion at Citi Field.
New York was down to its final strike when pinch-hitter Omar Quintanilla stroked a single to left field near the foul line, plating Lucas Duda from second with the tying run.
After Kirk Nieuwenhuis smacked a double to left-center to put runners on second and third, Curtis Granderson delivered the final blow with a hot shot that just got under the glove of a lunging Garrett Jones at first base for the walk-off victory.
“Just because he hasn’t gotten a whole lot of hits doesn’t mean he’s not a great hitter,” manager Mike Redmond said of Granderson, who after the game-winning hit raised his season batting average to .141. “You could just see the momentum roll their way, and we couldn’t stop them.
“It’s tough when we had it lined up exactly how we wanted. [Cishek has] been so good in those situations. I just always anticipate he’s going to get out of them. Tonight, he didn’t.”
Friday’s runs were the first Cishek had allowed this season in 7 2/3 innings of work. He also had only allowed three hits entering the game. The Mets produced four in the ninth alone.
Quintanilla’s single came on a 3-2 slider Cishek said wasn’t a good pitch. Even still, left fielder Christian Yelich, had he not slipped, might have had a chance to get Duda at the plate.
“It would have been a tough play,” said Yelich, whose 17-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-4 perfromance Friday. “I had to go a decent way for that ball. Then you’ve got to stop and then you’ve got to throw. And it’s a tough angle to throw because I’m right on the line. But it’s probably where I would have gone with the ball had I kept my feet.”
Before all that, it was the Marlins (10-13) who thought they had pulled off the comeback magic.
Mets reliever Gonzalez Germen thought he had Jarrod Saltalamacchia rung up for the final out of the eighth inning — even taking a couple steps toward the Mets dugout. Instead, it was ball three.
Two pitches later, Saltalamacchia tied the score at 2 with an opposite-field solo home run just over the wall in left-center field. Jones followed with a blast off the right-field foul pole four pitches later, giving the Marlins a 3-2 lead.
The back-to-back blasts were the first of the season for the Marlins. But it couldn’t save them from another otherwise lackluster offensive performance on the road.
After striking out 41 times in a three-game series in Atlanta earlier this week, the Marlins whiffed another 13 times Friday and finished 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
Despite the lack of run support, starter Henderson Alvarez delivered another quality start, giving up six hits and two earned runs over six innings. Over their past nine games, Marlins starters have combined to give up only seven earned runs over 60 1/3 innings, posting a great 1.04 ERA.
Dan Jennings and A.J. Ramos then came in and pitched 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth. But it wasn’t meant to be.
“Honestly I could not care lass about the streak,” Cishek said. “We played great. Back-to-back homers get you fired up, it’s awesome to see. Pitching was phenomenal. It’s not an excuse for me to come in and not get the job done.”
Had the Marlins done a better job at the plate the story might have been different. It doesn’t seem to matter which division rival it is. If the Marlins aren’t playing at home, their bats are pretty much useless.
Including Friday’s seven-hit performance, the Marlins are hitting only .219 with 25 runs scored on the road. They’re 11 for 78 (.141) with runners in scoring position.
At home, the Marlins are second in the majors in batting average (.293) and runs per game (5.9), and second in the NL in slugging percentage (.437) and OPS (.797). They’re hitting .328 with runners on scoring position.
Furcal had hits in his first two at-bats, but slowed up while running the bases. After scoring a run, he limped to the dugout. Furcal had been battling back from a hamstring injury.