Nobody is ready to anoint A.J. Ramos as the Marlins’ savior, not off one immaculate ninth-inning performance under intense pressure.
But Ramos did notch his first big-league save.
In what was the first ninth-inning test for the Marlins in the wake of Steve Cishek losing the closer’s role, Ramos preserved Wednesday’s 5-4 victory over the Dodgers with a 1-2-3 debut.
The win enabled the Marlins to avert a sweep to the Dodgers while closing out a 4-6 road trip in which three of the losses were the result of blown leads in the eighth inning or later.
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“You’ve got to finish games to go where we want to go,” manager Mike Redmond said. “It worked today. There’s nothing better in the big leagues than to play those close games, those one-run games. Today we did a great job.”
After the Marlins decided to relieve Cishek of his ninth-inning duties, Redmond never specified whom he intended to use the first time he was presented with a save situation.
On Wednesday, the answer became known when Ramos trotted in from the bullpen in the ninth with the Marlins clinging to a one-run lead.
Ramos took care of business in 11 pitches.
He struck out Jimmy Rollins on a called third strike, got Yasmani Grandal to go down swinging, and finished it off by retiring Andre Ethier on a fly ball to right.
“It was a good feeling,” Ramos said.
Ramos saved 83 games in the minors, but none in the majors until Wednesday. He was especially pleased that the achievement came in front of his parents, who were on hand at Dodger Stadium.
“I definitely had to hold the reins back,” Ramos said of the emotions he felt as he took the mound in the ninth. “If not, I would have been wild. So I was easy as possible and able to get the job done.”
It was a see-saw battle Wednesday, with first the Marlins, then the Dodgers, and then the Marlins again taking the lead.
“That was huge for, one, not to get swept and, two, to come back,” said Giancarlo Stanton, who drove in three runs. “It’s definitely one we needed going into the off day and to end this ugly road trip.”
The Marlins jumped to a 2-0 lead, with the second run coming on pitcher Jarred Cosart’s first hit of the season and Stanton increasing his RBI total to 31 on a ground out.
But the lead didn’t last.
The Dodgers got on the board in the fourth when Alex Guerrero scored from third on a Cosart wild pitch.
They took the lead in the fifth after Cosart walked Ethier to start the inning before giving up a two-run homer to Enrique Hernandez in somewhat of a strange pitcher-hitter matchup.
The Marlins acquired Cosart and Hernandez in a trade with the Astros last July before packing Hernandez in the December blockbuster deal in which Miami obtained Dee Gordon and Dan Haren.
But Cosart’s troubles didn’t end there.
He gave up another homer in the inning, this time to Joc Pederson, and barely avoided a third when Marcell Ozuna came down with Howie Kendrick’s fly ball to center at the base of the wall.
The problems continued for Cosart in the sixth when, after giving up a one-out single to Guerrero, he moved uncomfortably on the mound. The training staff, Redmond and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez came out to take a look.
Their decision wasn’t long in coming. Cosart was lifted with a hamstring injury, leaving it up to an embattled bullpen to go the rest of the way.
“It felt like something was grabbing me,” Cosart said. “I’ve never had an issue before, so it’s new to me.”
The Marlins regained the lead with three runs in the seventh. Martin Prado drove in a run and Stanton knocked in two for a 5-4 Marlins lead.
Sam Dyson, Bryan Morris and Mike Dunn got the Marlins through the next 2 2/3 innings, pitching scoreless relief, before Ramos finally got his chance.
“I’m not going to relish in it too much, because I might have to go out there Friday [against Atlanta],” Ramos said. “This one’s gone. I’ll celebrate it tonight with my family, and forget about it and go on to the next one.”