Since the beginning of the 2009 season, before last night, Carlos Marmol had allowed four home runs in 195 appearances covering 192.1 innings and 840 batters faced.
Michael McKenry, though he had some power (.453 SLG) in the minor leagues, had 75 major league plate appearances before last night without a home run.
This would normally seem to be a no-brainer, right? Marmol very rarely gives up home runs (although of the four he did allow, two of them were to Pirates, Jeff Clement and Ryan Doumit) and McKenry hasn't hit one in the big leagues. And of those four home runs allowed since 2009 began, just one (to Hunter Pence last year) had been with anyone on base.
In this tailspinning Cubs season where games have been lost on errors and wild pitches and herds of elephants stampeding into stadiums (I made that last part up, but if it could happen, it probably would to the Cubs), you knew what was going to happen next. After a called strike and six straight foul balls, McKenry slammed Marmol's eighth pitch of the at-bat for a three-run homer that wound up winning the game for the Pirates, 7-4.
The Pirates have won 11 of their last 16 and stand just one game out of first place. How, exactly, are they doing this? Friday night they started four players (McKenry, Josh Harrison, Chase d'Arnaud and Alex Presley) who were in the minor leagues when this season began and brought a couple other people into the game I had never heard of before.
And yet, they win. And yet, the Cubs lose, even after fighting back from a deficit, blowing a lead and then taking it back. Alfonso Soriano hit a key two-run double. Darwin Barney singled in the run to make it 4-3 Cubs. Aramis Ramirez hit his 10th home run in his last 15 games. Even Rodrigo Lopez contributed by posting his second straight good outing, giving up three runs in six innings. James Russell and Kerry Wood kept the Pirates down. Then Sean Marshall gave up some hits and got into a jam that Mike Quade thought Marmol could get him out of.
That was the right call. Even when Quade does the right thing, it blows up in his face. Marmol gave up a single that tied the game, before allowing the home run to McKenry.
I wish I understood this team. One day they produce a miracle comeback -- it was mentioned on the CSN telecast last night that it was the first time a Cubs team had ever come back from an eight-run deficit after the fifth inning in a road game -- and the next they blow a lead with a guy on the mound who almost never gives up home runs, giving up a home run.
They'll try it again tonight; Ryan Dempster returns to the mound after missing one start with back trouble.