5/4 Reds 6, Cubs 4
The Cubs are convinced Carlos Marmol can still get batters out, but on Saturday, he couldn’t throw a strike. Marmol entered in the eighth with a two-run lead and failed to retire a batter, walking two and hitting another, to help the Reds rally for four runs and post a 6-4 victory over the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano hit a pair of two-run home runs and Jeff Samardzija was in line for his first win since Opening Day until the fateful eighth.
Chicago led 4-2 when Marmol took over, making his 453rd appearance, a franchise record, passing Lee Smith. But he walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, then walked Joey Votto. Dale Sveum left Marmol in, hoping he could get Brandon Phillips to ground into a double play. Instead, Marmol hit Brandon Phillips with a pitch to load the bases. Hector Rondon entered, and Jay Bruce hit a RBI single, Todd Frazier followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 4-4. Rondon intentionally walked Xavier Paul, and unintentionally walked pinch-hitter Joel Hannahan to force in the go-ahead run. Another run scored on pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco’s sacrifice fly.
Marmol is the problem, though. In 14 appearances, he has given up 11 hits, walked 12 and hit three batters over 11 2/3 innings. He lost his job as the closer after the first week of the season, and now has a 6.17 ERA.
“I can’t throw strikes,” Marmol said. “I’m giving people a chance to score.”
“He’s not executing,” Sveum said. “He’s not throwing the ball over the plate. It doesn’t matter what pitch is called.”
The Cubs are trying to make it work for the right-hander, who lost his job as the closer last season yet won it back and finished strong. He hasn’t been able to bounce back this year.
“He’ll be pitching in roles with the game on the line, early in the game, or whatever,” Sveum said. “One way or the other, he’s got to get fixed. … I don’t even know if he threw a strike today. There were a couple swings but I don’t know if they were strikes. One way or the other, we have to get him fixed because he’s got to pitch.”
Marmol threw 14 pitches Saturday, only four were strikes, and only one was a called strike. He said he isn’t lacking confidence and that he’s healthy. He is frustrated.
“I have to go out there tomorrow and throw strikes and get people out,” Marmol said. “That’s all you can do.”
Unfortunately for the Cubs, this isn’t the first time they’ve blown a lead in the late innings. This was the 25th game out of the Cubs’ 30 to be decided by three runs or less, and Chicago now is 9-16 in those games. Twelve of those losses have been by two runs or less.
“Probably half of our losses have been these kind of losses,” Sveum said. “That’s what’s frustrating. If we could turn the switch around, we’d have eight more wins. It’s not like we’re going through a game and losing 6-2 and it’s a normal game. Whether it’s errors or walking people like today or whatever it might be, there aren’t a lot of clean games going on in the first 30 games.”
They may be frustrated but they’re not down.
“Maybe on some other teams but this team is pretty resilient,” Jeff Samardzija said. “We need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and turn these ‘L’s’ into ‘W’s.’”
– Carrie Muskat