Through good times and bad, GreenJackets manager Billy Gardner says he is sticking with closer Mark Cisar.
"He's been my guy, he's second in the league in saves, and I'm gonna stick with him," Gardner said following the Jackets' 3-2 loss to the Hagerstown Suns at The Lake on Saturday. "I'm not giving up on him now."
Since being named to the South Atlantic League All-Star team in June, the 24-year-old right-hander has struggled, and his latest outing may have been the low point.
In a 2-2 game, Cisar took over for reliever Terrance Hill with one out and nobody on in the top of the ninth inning.
The left-handed Hill relieved starter Josh Hancock to start the seventh and was cruising, having allowed just two hits and no runs in 2 1/3 innings -- one of his better outings this season.
After Hill retired Suns No. 9 hitter Justin Davies for the first out in the ninth, Gardner emerged from the dugout and summoned Cisar from the bullpen, hoping the team's saves leader could rediscover his lost magic.
But Cisar gave up a single to Suns leadoff man Jorge Nunez and was about to unravel. After Nunez advanced to second on a wild pitch and Jesse Zepeda walked, left fielder Ryan Fleming stroked an RBI-single for the game winner.
Cisar took the loss, dropping his record to 2-5.
Hagerstown All-Star closer Jarrod Kingrey, a Columbus, Ga., native, retired the Jackets in order in the ninth to record his league-leading 20th save.
Since converting 14 of his first 15 save chances this season, Cisar has blown five of his last 11. His ERA has swelled from 2.35 before the All-Star break to 3.23.
Even when Cisar has nailed down saves, it's been a bit hairy. He picked up his 19th save in Game 1 of the series vs. Hagerstown, but not before walking one and allowing a hit to bring the tying run to the plate.
"His confidence is a little bit down right now, but he's going to be fine," Gardner said. "He's lost a little faith in his fastball and he needs to go back to trusting his fastball more."
The late collapse spoiled a solid outing by starter Josh Hancock and Hill.
In his second start back since a stint on the disabled list, Hancock allowed two runs on six hits in six innings with six strikeouts.
"I felt pretty good tonight for my second start back from the DL," Hancock said. "Two outings in a row now, I've thrown the ball well."
But the Jackets were outdone by Hagerstown pitching, which had allowed 26 runs and 33 hits in the first three games of the series.
Suns starter Scott Cassidy tossed seven innings of five-hit ball, while relievers Eric Place and Kingrey shut the Jackets down over the final two innings.
"It's a tough way to lose, especially for Mark, but he'll be back," Gardner said. "I have a lot of faith in him."