It never really took the first time, but Heath Bell’s latest blown save on Sunday has caused the Marlins to again try a closer-by-committee.
Bell, who was signed to a three-year, $27 million deal in the offseason, has blown two of his last four save chances and six of 25 for the season. Those totals don’t include the four-run lead he blew on June 25, since that wasn’t a save situation.
Steve Cishek could be the favorite for saves in Miami for now, but the Marlins are just two weeks away from getting ex-closer Juan Oviedo back from suspension. The former Leo Nunez missed the first couple of months with visa troubles and is currently finishing up his 50-game suspension for lying about his identity. If Bell hasn’t righted the ship when Oviedo returns on July 23, odds are Oviedo will get a shot at the closer’s role.
As for Bell, well, some of the blame may go on Ozzie Guillen here. Bell was working on a string of 10 straight scoreless appearances before the ugly four-run outing two weeks ago. His two blown saves since came during a span in which he pitched seven times in nine days.
The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.
After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.
Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.