Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs runs the bases past Carlos Lee of the Miami Marlins after hitting a solo home run at Wrigley Field n Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Two hours and five minutes of pleasure followed by 12 minutes of agony.
No, that's not what I meant. What are you thinking about?
I'm talking about today's Cubs victory, 4-2 over the Marlins, the fourth straight series win at home and second consecutive 5-1 homestand.
Paul Maholm mowed down Marlins hitters for eight innings and 106 pitches; a leadoff triple by pinch-hitter Donovan Solano, who subsequently scored on an infield out, was his only real mistake (he gave up just four other singles and a walk). You know, Dale Sveum, maybe sometime this year, will you actually let someone shoot for a complete game again? Just because Matt Garza threw a ball into the next county and blew a shutout back on April 12, and just because Maholm himself couldn't quite finish off a CG on June 29 against Houston, doesn't mean you shouldn't give someone a chance for one. I would have at least let him start the ninth; he had thrown 106 pitches (68 strikes), but seemed to be doing it effortlessly. It wasn't a hot day and the game had moved along quickly.
Instead, Carlos Marmol got to torment us for an inning.
Look, I get it: the Cubs are probably trying to get other teams interested in trading for Marmol. In order to do that, he has to pitch in actual games and do well. So far, the Cubs have the "pitch in actual games" part down. If only Marmol would provide the "do well" portion of that deal, maybe he could be shipped somewhere before July 31. Actually, the Cubs probably have until August 31 to deal him, because he'll surely clear waivers.
Off today's performance, I can't see a scout going back to his GM and saying, "Go get that guy!" Marmol walked Carlos Lee, the first batter he faced. He's now walked at least one batter in 21 of his 34 appearances this year. After a pair of strikeouts -- OK, so that's a bit of an improvement, even though he went to long counts on both of them -- Lee scored on a single by pinch-hitter Greg Dobbs, because he took second uncontested while Dobbs was batting. That brought the tying run to the plate, but Marmol got Omar Infante to hit a harmless ground ball to Darwin Barney to end it.
That's 11 saves for Marmol, but he increased his already ridiculously-high WHIP to 1.906.
All right, now the complaint department is closed. Before that near-meltdown in the ninth inning, the Cubs put together a nice four-run inning on Mark Buehrle in the fifth, highlighted by a home run from Alfonso Soriano that started the scoring and a two-run single from Reed Johnson that completed it. Before that, the Cubs had run themselves out of an inning in the fourth when Johnson got caught in a rundown trying to score after getting to third on a double and an infield out. After Reed was tagged, Anthony Rizzo also got caught trying to take second base, ending the inning. All told, the Cubs hit into four double plays today, but thanks to Maholm, that didn't really matter.
And we didn't have to look at the ugly orange Marlins jerseys; they wore road grays Thursday afternoon, which, truth be told, actually look pretty decent.
The Cubs are now 14-5 in their last six series (13-5 since Rizzo joined the team), but now comes the test. They improved their home record to 24-21 with this win, but have the second-worst road record in the major leagues at 14-32 (only the Astros, 10-37, are worse). Can they make a decent showing in St. Louis? Maybe; the Cardinals are 23-20 at home and the Cubs have won two games there already this year. What about Pittsburgh? Um, maybe not so much. The Pirates have the best home record in the major leagues at this writing: 29-14. And they swept the Cubs there at the end of May.
This is a better team than it was a month ago, but they still struggle on the road. We'll see what happens, as trade rumors surrounding Ryan Dempster (who I still think makes his start tomorrow), Matt Garza and others continue to fly.