Now is not a good time for closer Steve Cishek to begin stumbling, not with the Marlins trying to hang in the wild-card race as the season begins to wind down.
But Cishek in August hasn’t been the same reliable shutdown master he was before the All-Star break, and Saturday he failed to come through again, failing to preserve a one-run lead in the ninth as the Rockies rallied for a 5-4 victory in 13 innings at Coors Field.
Entrusted with a 4-3 lead in the ninth, Cishek gave up a mammoth, game-tying home run to Corey Dickerson before the Rockies pulled it out in the 11th on Dickerson’s game-winning single off Sam Dyson.
"I'm very disappointed," Cishek said. "These are all must wins, and when you're trying to climb back in this thing and have a team on the ropes, you should be able to put them away. Unfortunately, I left a good pitch to hit to a pure fastball hitter, and he got all of it."
And so, instead of improving to two games over .500 for the first time since June 17, the Marlins suffered a loss that cost them a game in the wild-card battle. With a win, they would have inched to within three games of the lead. With the loss, they remained four out.
"The bottom line is I didn't make my pitches," Cishek said. "I felt behind 3-1 to an all-or-nothing hitter, and when you miss down and in to a lefty that's a power hitter, that doesn't put the team in a good spot."
So much for their penchant for squeaking out 1-run wins. Just when it looked like they had their 33rd such victory in the bag on Saturday, the Rockies turned the table and handed the Marlins a 1-run loss.
The Marlins were two outs away from the victory when, with one swing of the bat, their lead turned to dust. Dickerson’s blast reached the third deck, making it only the 33rd home run to get their in ballpark history.
After producing 13 runs on 16 hits in Friday’s win, runs were tougher to come by for the Marlins on Saturday, though Rockies pitchers were just about as generous.
One night after walking nine times, the Marlins worked five more walks out of Rockies starter Jordan Lyles, including three in the fourth inning alone. But the Marlins just didn’t do quite as much with them.
"You've got to score here," said manager Mike Redmond. "And if you leave it to one run, anybody can put up a run in this place. We had it and just couldn't lock it down."
After grabbing a 1-0 lead in the third on a RBI double from Giancarlo Stanton, the Rockies came up with three runs that same inning off Tom Koehler, with two coming on Brandon Barnes’ two-out shot to left with a man aboard.
But the Marlins cut the Colorado lead to one run when, with the bases loaded, Lyles walked Donovan Solano on four pitches. And the Marlins tied it in the fifth on Saltalamacchia’s two-out double.
Koehler found his rhythm the longer he remained on the mound. After giving up back-to-back singles to start the fourth, Koehler retired 12 of the next 13 hitters, with the only base runner coming on Charlie Blackmon’s one-out single in the fifth.
Otherwise, Koehler was masterful, retiring the final seven batters he faced, including three of the final four on strikeouts. Given the added challenge of pitching at Coors, his performance was even more impressive.
It was tied until the ninth when Adeiny Hechavarria gave the Marlins a 4-3 lead with an infield single.
But Steve Cishek, who has struggled most of the month, couldn’t hold it.
Cishek gave up a one-out homer to Dickerson, sending the game to extra frames. It was Cishek’s fourth blown save, and opposing batters are hitting over .400 against him in August.
The Marlins left 15 runners on base, and the top of the order pretty much fired a blank, as Christian Yelich's 10-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0 for 5 night and Donovan Solano was 0-for-6.