Carlos Marmol of the Chicago Cubs walks off the field after throwing a wild pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals which cost them the game in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Either get a pitching coach here who can work with him and try to solve his control issues, or trade him.
Marmol had another stunning ninth-inning meltdown, throwing only 13 strikes in 30 pitches and walking in the tying run, then wild-pitching in the winning run as the Cardinals stayed in the wild card race with a 2-1 win over the Cubs.
For Marmol, it was his 10th blown save of the season, which now leads the National League by three -- that's right, no one else has more than seven. If you think that doesn't matter, consider that Jose Valverde of the Tigers has 47 saves without a blown save this year. Convert those 10 blown saves -- some of them in spectacular fashion -- and you've got a team that's 80-78 instead of 70-88. Sure, that's probably a simplistic reaction to this, and the Cubs have actually won two of the 10 games in which Marmol has blown a save, but there's clearly something wrong with Marmol that no one on the current team has been able to fix. His walks are actually down this year -- 5.4 per nine innings, compared to 6.0 in 2010 -- but he's given up more hits, and struck out fewer batters, which gives him much less margin for error.
There's one other thing a manager can do in a situation like this, and for this I can't blame Mike Quade, because no one does this: take the guy out when he's struggling! Quade used Marmol in a non-save situation Friday night, and even then he wasn't sharp, throwing 16 pitches (only nine strikes). Maybe it would have been wise to have someone else loosening up. Who, you say? Does it matter when a pitcher is having as bad an inning as Marmol? Seriously, who could have done worse than that?
It's really too bad, because Rodrigo Lopez, Andrew Cashner and Sean Marshall had combined for eight outstanding innings. They gave up just four singles and two walks, and it appeared that the first-inning run driven in by Alfonso Soriano was going to be enough for MLB's 53rd 1-0 game of the season.
I have dissed Lopez quite a bit this year. He was excellent today; it was his best start since he threw seven shutout innings against the White Sox on July 3. But here's the thing: if you want him to be an inning-eating fifth starter, that's not who he is. In 16 starts, he's thrown six or more innings only six times. He hasn't posted an ERA under four since 2004. He's a fifth starter on a bad team. If you want the Cubs to be a bad team again in 2012, by all means, keep him as fifth starter, especially since he's going to be 36 in December. Otherwise, I'd thank him for his service and move on. To me, regardless of his performance, he's a symbol of the mismanagement of the Jim Hendry regime (as is Ramon Ortiz). Grab other guys off the waiver wire or from non-tenders this offseason.
As for the Cardinals, since the Braves lost Saturday afternoon, St. Louis moves to within two games of the wild card lead with four games left. The Cubs can still deal them another blow tomorrow, but there's life in St. Louis' apparently dead playoff hopes.
For the Cubs, they can still avoid a 90-loss season by winning three of their four remaining games. It's a small goal, but I'd like to see them do it, to set a positive tone for 2012.