MIAMI -- The Marlins entered Sunday as one of three teams with 17 wins in the second half, a feat that had forced them to rely on closer Steve Cishek more than usual.
The righty appeared in 14 of those contests and turned in a National League-best 11 saves in that span (tied with Francisco Rodriguez entering play Sunday). But he's struggled to have clean innings, which led manager Mike Redmond to give him a five-game break this week.
The rest worked wonders for Cishek, even though he admitted that "five days felt like an eternity." When he came into the one-run game Saturday night against the D-backs, he recorded a perfect inning to earn his 31st save of the season in Miami's 2-1 win. Sure, he threw first-pitch balls to the first two batters of the inning, but he located his slider better, which is what he'd worked on all week, and fanned two.
"It's just nice to have a clean inning with no walks and no hits, no runs," he said. "First time I have [had] that in a few outings now … Hopefully, I can continue on those clean innings. It's what we need in the ninth inning. It's my job."
For the Marlins to continue their success, they will need Cishek to keep his slider sharp.
"We need this guy, without a doubt, down the last five or six weeks," Redmond said on Saturday. "To give him a little bit of a blow was big. He looked good, he looked sharp. He looked like he had his command. Some [pitches] hit 93 [mph], so he's back."
Before that outing, opponents had scored a totally of five runs on nine hits against Cishek in a span of four games from Aug. 7-11.
But Cishek's rough stretch wasn't for naught. As the season has wound down, he's learned that he won't always be 100 percent effective. That's just something he'll have to pitch through.
"When you're not feeling your best, especially in the ninth inning, it's really tough to go out there and be sharp," Cishek said. "So it's taught me how to get through these innings without having your best stuff. Even though I gave up a few runs, a bunch of hits my last stretch here, we were able to still win the ball game. I was able to still get through it for the guys. No matter what happens, as long as we win, I don't care. I just got to find a way to get it done."