"When you come by, bring my stomach!"
The ghost of Jack Brickhouse was saying all of those things during a ridiculous ninth inning Friday night in New York -- scene of some awful Cubs moments in Brickhouse's era -- during which Carlos Marmol nearly pitched away a four-run Cubs lead. And then, it was Marmol bailing his pitching out with his fielding, snagging a line drive up the middle by Lucas Duda and turning it into a game-ending double play. The ball might have been fielded by either Starlin Castro or Darwin Barney anyway, and at first it didn't appear Marmol quite knew what to do with the ball after he caught it. The Cubs hung on to beat the Mets 8-7, and it shouldn't have been that difficult.
Marmol gave up a home run, three walks and a two-run single before the double play, and threw an alarming total of 28 pitches. Bad old Marmol returned, after it appeared he was settling into a nice routine over the last few weeks. Hopefully, this is an aberration and he won't slip back into the old, bad habits again.
This recap should have been a nice one without all that angst; the Cubs took the lead on the game's second pitch, slammed for a home run by Reed Johnson. Johnson went 4-for-5; he's now 16-for-31 lifetime off Johan Santana. Sometimes individual hitters just have another pitcher's number; unfortunately for Reed, he won't face Santana again this year.
Travis Wood had his scoreless-inning streak snapped, but still threw a credible six innings, allowing just two runs, and the Cubs broke the game open with a five-run fifth inning that included Anthony Rizzo's fourth home run.
Fourth home run. In 10 games played (in which the Cubs have, not coincidentally, gone 7-3). For all the hype we had heard about Rizzo, he might even be better than that. Sure, pitchers are going to adjust to him and he's going to have times when he doesn't hit for a few games. But he appears to be a good enough hitter that he can make the adjustments that will be needed after that. It looks like he's totally changed the way he holds his hands while batting, as compared to how he was last year with the Padres.
Jeff Baker also homered in that big inning, his third; if he continues to hit well in a part-time role like this, maybe some team will inquire about his availablility (say, the Tigers are still looking for a second baseman, right?)... and this management team, unlike the last one, won't hesitate to deal him.
About the only other complaint I could make about Friday night's win, other than Marmol's performance, was the appearance of Starlin Castro in the game. Say, Dale -- if you're going to give Castro a day off, give him the day off! That doesn't mean putting him in the game in a double-switch and getting him two at-bats on a hot and steamy night. The more logical double-switch at the time would have been putting David DeJesus in the game and taking Joe Mather out.
Castro managed a hit in two at-bats, which is a good thing; I suppose there's a chance he could play in all 162 games. There have been just two Cubs who have done this since 1970 -- Sammy Sosa (1997 and 1999) and Juan Pierre (2006). Even if Castro does this, he needs to get a break from time to time.
With the win and Friday night's win by the Brewers over the Astros, the Cubs no longer have the worst record in the major leagues. That's worth something, I suppose; this lost season has felt a little less lost since the arrival of Rizzo on the major-league scene.