PITTSBURGH A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney pitched Sunday in roles opposite to where the Marlins had them earlier this month.
On Sunday, the approach worked.
Ramos, the Marlins’ closer for the majority of the season, returned from the disabled list on Sunday after healing sufficiently from a hairline fracture to the middle finger on his pitching hand.
His first outing since Aug. 5 was a scoreless eighth inning that set up Rodney to close out his third save in as many days and help the Marlins complete a much-needed, three-game sweep of the Pirates at PNC Park.
“The pain was way down from what it’s been before,” Ramos said. “Getting a couple of quick outs helped me out. It was kind of a welcome back by getting thrown right into the fire. I’d rather it be like that. I perform better under pressure.”
The Marlins were relieved to have their All-Star relief tandem available in the same game for the first time in over two weeks.
“It was really nice to get A.J. back and throwing strikes the way he did,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
“This energy he pitched with here is different than any he had pitched so far. He has the off day [Monday], so hopefully he comes back strong and gets back on track.”
On Sunday, Ramos was thrust into a situation in the eighth with the Marlins leading 3-2 but with the heart of the Pirates’ lineup due up — Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco.
Ramos induced Marte to pop up in foul ground, McCutchen to ground out to third and Polanco to line out to first base.
“It doesn’t matter what inning you pitch in, especially when it’s a 3-2 game or a one-run ball game,” Ramos said.
“The game can change on one pitch, and that’s the mentality you have to have going out there.”
Ramos has converted 32 saves in 34 chances this season and has a 2.98 ERA in 45 1/3 innings.
The solid first half earned Ramos his first All-Star selection.
Rodney, also an All-Star this season, saved 17 games in as many chances with the Padres with a 0.31 ERA before being traded to the Marlins on June 30.
Rodney struggled in mostly a setup role after joining the Marlins, compiling a 6.91 ERA in 14 1/3 innings.
But since Rodney began closing after Ramos went on the disabled list, he has converted all seven save opportunities and allowed only one earned run in nine innings.
“I know what my situation is, and every inning they give me the ball I’m going to be ready,” Rodney said.
The Marlins might elect to use Ramos in the eighth-inning setup role for the time being, with Rodney coming in to pitch the ninth.
“A.J. and I have talked, and we’re going to do what’s best for the team,” Mattingly said. “He’s on board with whatever we feel is best for the whole group of guys.”
Ramos echoed Mattingly’s sentiment.
▪ To make room for Ramos, the Marlins optioned reliever Brian Ellington to Triple A New Orleans.
The Marlins can recall Ellington once rosters expand to 40 players at the beginning of September.
▪ Monday: Off.
▪ Tuesday: Marlins RHP Andrew Cashner (4-9, 4.92 ERA) vs. Kansas City Royals RHP Yordano Ventura (8-9, 4.46), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Wednesday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (12-7, 3.05) vs. Royals RHP Dillon Gee (5-6, 4.52), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.