Before last night, the last time the Cubs beat the Florida Marlins -- anywhere -- was April 25, 2006, when that sorry team was actually five games over .500 at 12-7 and Michael Restovich (remember him?) pinch-hit for starting pitcher Sean Marshall.
We have come a long way, both figuratively and literally, from that date and time and place in Cubs history -- best forgotten now, I think -- and last night, coming home to yet another capacity crowd (passing the 2 million mark in attendance fastest in franchise history, on the 50th home date -- total attendance is now 2,030,517, an average of 40,510 per date), the Cubs beat the Marlins convincingly, 6-3, to maintain their one-game lead over the Brewers, who completed a four-game sweep over St. Louis (stupid Cardinals, can't even win when we want them to).
And besides the fine pitching of Carlos Zambrano, who also doubled in a run, raising his batting average to .356, Aramis Ramirez showed signs of coming out of his slump with two hits, including a two-run double which could have been a three-run double had Derrek Lee been just a little bit faster and beat a relay throw; there were also home runs by Ronny Cedeno and Henry Blanco, both playing because Lou wanted to give regulars Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto the night off -- every single Cub (particularly Bob Howry) and Cub fan should give thanks to Mark DeRosa, whose flat-out, diving catch of Luis Gonzalez' sinking liner into right-center in the 8th inning prevented that inning from becoming a disaster (it took four relief pitchers to finish that one inning, and the Cubs were indeed fortunate to get out of it with only one run after the bases had been loaded with no one out).
A run scored on that catch, because the bases were loaded, but then Carlos Marmol came in and got Josh Willingham looking to end the inning.
And that brings me to the point of today's recap, because I'm sure none of you want to talk about anything except Marmol and today's expected recall of Jeff Samardzija (who, according to Gordon Wittenmyer, might even start this weekend, although I think it's more likely he winds up in the bullpen).
About Marmol, my totally unscientific, nonstatistical, seat-of-the-pants thought about his troubles is this: Marmol seems a sensitive sort, and whenever something little goes wrong, it seems to unhinge him. Case in point: the error (it was really an error, even though it was scored a hit) he made in the game on July 12, which helped the Giants erase a 7-0 deficit in a game the Cubs eventually won 8-7, seemed to rattle him to the point that he gave up two more hits and a walk before getting an out, and then hit a batter and gave up another hit before getting out of the inning.
Last night, after his K of Willingham (Howard said to me after that, "Marmol is BACK!"), he lost .187-hitting Jeff Baker on a very close call by plate umpire Bruce Dreckman. Again, that seemed to unhinge Marmol, who wound up walking the bases loaded and forcing Lou to get Marshall, one of only two pitchers (Scott Eyre the other) left in the short-handed bullpen, warmed up, before Marmol struck out Wes Helms to end the game.
As I said -- just my totally unscientific opinion.
About Samardzija -- well, the Cubs aren't paying him all this money to sit in the minor leagues, after having pitched better as he was promoted to each higher level. His six starts at Iowa have produced a 4-1 record in 37.1 innings (so averaging over six per start) and 40 strikeouts and only 16 walks. As Wittenmyer's article states:
The former Notre Dame football star might even start for the Cubs this weekend, though that could not be immediately confirmed. A Saturday start would push back Rich Harden's scheduled start to his sixth day -- a schedule that produced good results for Harden with Oakland earlier this year.
What I'd do instead is let Harden pitch this weekend, and if you're going to slot an extra starter in, slot him (either Samardzija or Marshall) next Friday against the Pirates. If you push Harden back this weekend, that means that Harden wouldn't face the Brewers, and I'm certain that Lou wants him to pitch in that series. Also, the Cubs obviously need bullpen help, especially after last night's near-meltdown, and Samardzija, in my opinion, is better suited to relief than starting at the major league level.
But all that is for later on. Today, savor another home win, raising the home record to 38-12 (.760), and be ready for this afternoon's game. The game thread will be up at 11:30 am CT.