8/17/2014 1:09 P.M. ET
Rest helps Cishek return to form
By Joe Frisaro and Maria Torres / MLB.com
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."
McGehee sticking with up-the-middle hitting approach
MIAMI -- Staying with an up-the-middle approach is a big reason Casey McGehee has enjoyed a productive season. It's factored into the Miami third baseman batting .333 with runners in scoring position entering play Sunday, as well as providing protection behind Giancarlo Stanton.
The flip side of focusing on the center of the field is it has made McGehee susceptible to hitting into double plays. Three times in the first three games against Arizona, the veteran third baseman has tapped into DP's.
"It gets frustrating," McGehee said. "But at the same time, you can't go up there thinking about it. With a guy on first base, you're still trying to hit the ball hard. Sometimes it happens. It's happened a few more times than it probably should."
McGehee paces the Majors with the 25 double plays he's hit into. He's also set a franchise record in that category, topping the 22 Greg Colbrunn had in 1996.
Overall, McGehee has been steady behind Stanton, who paces the Majors with 20 intentional walks. Stanton also has walked 76 times, third most in the big leagues.
Teams are clearly trying to avoid allowing Stanton to beat them, taking their chances with McGehee, who has often made the strategy backfire. McGehee is batting .325 with runners on base.
Considering his overall production, McGehee could be taking a risk if he tinkers with his approach with runners on base.
"It's one of those things where the knee-jerk reaction is to try to come out of your approach and do something differently," McGehee said. "For the most part, I think that's been a big part of whatever success I've had, is trying to stay in the middle of the field. You can't have it both ways all the time. I guess that's the price you pay trying to stay in the middle of the field sometimes."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.