The Cincinnati Reds played well Saturday in narrow victory at Yankee Stadium. Homer Bailey is showing signs of being the starter that, for years, fans were told he was. The bats were alive, and the Reds made the most of their opportunities.
Joey Votto is looking hot, Heisey and Phillips are heating up and talents like Costanzo are revealing their worth. But that's not all the 6-5 win over New York revealed.
The ninth inning came calling again for Sean Marshall.
With the score at 6-3, he had a comfortable lead to work with. Was there pressure? Sure, but nowhere near the kind closers have to deal with on a regular basis.
Taking the mound for the 10th time this year, Marshall gave up four hits and two runs, while only recording a single out. He was relieved by Jose Arredondo who was credited with the save.
Marshall has seven saves on the year and only one blown save. At first glance, his stats might suggest he's playing pretty well. But then you have to ask yourself about his two holds.
Sean Marshall has failed to perform on the mound as a closer, and he's failed twice in the last few appearances to get out of the ninth inning. He's starting to draw the ire of fans and the management as well.
Marshall wasn't brought into the organization to be a closer, but with Ryan Madson's injury, it became apparent that he would be dubbed the new Reds' closer. He looked great in his first appearances, but has only crumbled since.
With an ERA at 5.02 and a WHIP 1.74, he's certainly no longer impressive. Batters are hitting over .300 against the pitcher. Reds' fans and staff are losing trust in Marshall quickly, and his confidence is clearly dwindling.
You might ask, 'what's the answer?'
But that's the problem.
The Reds don't have another pitcher who is really suited to play as a closer. Many have and will continue to call for Aroldis Chapman to take the job, but that's totally unrealistic.
Chapman is a born starter and will have a substantially bigger impact in the rotation once he's out of the bullpen. Asking him to take the mound to close in consecutive days is a death wish with the young southpaw throwing so hard. Injury would be inevitable.
Can Sean Marshall be a reliable closer?
Who's next? Today's closer, Arrendondo? He's pitched well this year, but his career is riddled with inconsistency, which is evident from his walk rate of 4.3 per nine innings pitched.
What about Logan Ondrusek? He lacks experience in closing situations and, although he's been lights out this year, he has a consistency problem that could be worse than Marshall's.
Beyond that, Nick Masset and Bill Bray are injured. Sam LeCure doesn't have the stuff that the closing role calls for. JJ Hoover has very little major league experience. So who does that leave?
The problem the Reds are facing now is Sean Marshall is struggling as a closer, and there's also a lack of pitchers who could replace him.
With a role as important as the closer, waiting for form to return could be a huge mistake. That said, I fully expect Dusty Baker to ride the Marshall train until his confidence returns. Hopefully that's sooner rather than later.