Astros 6, Cubs 3: Another Marmol Meltdown

USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs closer had another rough outing. We keep hoping that's not a sign of things to come, but the way things are going, it just might be.

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs lost to the Astros 6-3 in their final tuneup game before the 2013 regular season begins Monday in Pittsburgh.

The result -- a defeat -- means nothing, because everything resets to 0-0 beginning tomorrow. What's important is that Carlos Marmol had yet another bad outing, 28 pitches worth before Dale Sveum yanked him in favor of Casey Coleman. (Did you think you'd ever read those last few words, even in a spring-training game?)

In fairness to Marmol, some of the plays not made behind him would likely have been made if the infielders weren't named Alberto Gonzalez and Arismendy Alcantara. One play not made by Alcantara might have been an inning-ending double play, and another resulted in a throwing error after an infield hit. The last two runs charged to Marmol were on a single off Coleman, so they weren't entirely his fault. But Marmol's appearance reads: walk, single, forceout, strikeout, single.

And that's against Astros minor leaguers. Marmol ends up the spring having thrown 10⅓ innings, allowing 11 hits and nine walks, posting a 6.97 ERA and striking out just five. That isn't going to cut it once Monday begins.

But as I said -- clean slate after today. Maybe he'll figure things out.

Cubs regulars were mostly pulled after one at-bat, and this didn't sound good:

He might have seemed OK, but:

The Cubs do have Logan Watkins, their organizational Player of the Year from last year, available in case Barney can't play for an extended period. Watkins is solid defensively and I suspect can hit at least as well as Barney did last year. Brent Lillibridge will start Monday in Barney's place.

David DeJesus also left the game after this:

I don't usually agree with Rogers, but he's right. The hill IS dumb. (On the other hand, if it's dumb, why does he like it?) In fact, I had heard that the Astros' new owners might remove it, but just after last season ended, they apparently changed their minds:

The hill in Houston was supposed to evoke the incline at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, shown in this 1969 photo. The thing about that incline is that it was a natural feature of the local terrain that the stadium builders decided to keep. In Houston, they threw a few mounds of dirt down, covered it with grass and named it after a former Astros executive. It's dumb, and one of these days someone is going to get seriously injured running up that hill, or maybe into the flagpole that's in play (another theft from old Yankee Stadium, pre-1970s rehab). That whole park -- and I've been there -- feels like the designers had a committee meeting, named every ballpark quirk they could think of, and then said, "Let's put every single one of these in here!"

Anyway, the Cubs head to Pittsburgh this evening, awaiting their afternoon contest with the Pirates Monday. The major-league season begins Sunday night in Houston, when the newly-minted American League West Astros take on their division rivals, the Rangers, at 7 p.m. CT. I figure many of you will be interested in following that game on ESPN, so I'll have a game thread post here Sunday at 6:30 p.m. CT. There will be plenty of other content here tomorrow, so stop on by.

Baseball! It's almost here, after our long, long winter.

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