Didn't we see this game Saturday?
Think about it. Cubs take an early lead. Diamondbacks pile up a few hits in a row and score some runs and take the lead. Cubs fight back on a game-tying home run, and it's 4-4 going into the late innings and...
Well, of course it's a new day and a new game, but the same old result, an 8-4 loss to the Diamondbacks, two straight defeats after the Cubs looked really, really good in winning five in a row.
This time, it wasn't shoddy bullpen work that resulted in the defeat; it was shoddy work by starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Now, you can argue that Dale Sveum left him in too long, given that he departed with 108 pitches and that he threw more than 30 in the first inning alone (a 33-minute first inning, way beyond ridiculous), but Sveum's options were limited. I still don't understand why he refuses to use Carlos Villanueva, who's stretched out to start, for multiple-inning appearances. Saturday, Villanueva threw two pitches. You don't think he could have come in and spared the rest of the pen a couple of innings?
Instead, Sveum left Jackson in to twist slowly, slowly in the coldest June weather I can remember -- 47 degrees at game time, with a little bit of a light mist that finally dissipated. It would have been a nice day... for late November. The Wrigley seagulls returned, likely because it was too cold for anyone to be on the beaches. The game had just ended when they started divebombing after some food left over in the bleachers. Naturally, this was after the game dragged on in the frigid conditions for a ridiculous three hours, 27 minutes.
Jackson just kept getting pounded, over and over and over, all game; in addition, he threw four wild pitches, though in fairness, a couple of those were at least partly Dioner Navarro's fault. They bounced in, which makes them wild pitches, but a better defensive catcher stops those.
It didn't help that Julio Borbon dropped a routine fly ball in the second inning; that would have been the second out and maybe Jackson gets out of that inning unscathed if that doesn't happen. But that's an excuse; fielders make errors and good pitchers bear down and get out of innings like that. Jackson didn't.
I really have no idea what's wrong with Jackson. Is he done? You wouldn't think so. He's only 29 and had a decent year for a playoff team in 2012. But apart from the two-plus good innings he threw against the White Sox last Tuesday before that game was rained out, he really hasn't had a single outing I'd call "good" in 11 starts. Here's a postgame quote from Jackson:
#Cubs EJackson: "It's probably one of the most frustrating seasons I've been through"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 2, 2013
I'd hate to have seen any Jackson season worse than this one. Here's a more realistic quote:
More #Cubs Jackson: I'm a way better pitcher than I've shown. It hasn't been about confidence. I just haven't been getting the job done"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 2, 2013
That's absolutely true. Let's hope he figures things out, and soon.
Jackson's bad sixth inning put the Cubs down 7-4; Hector Rondon got out of that inning on three pitches (a strikeout) and Blake Parker threw a decent seventh. What Sveum was thinking starting the eighth inning bringing Carlos Marmol into the game, I have no idea. Maybe he figured the game wasn't winnable given the D'backs bullpen (although those guys have had their issues, too), so he'd give Marmol another inning to impress the scouts (although any scout who's still looking at Marmol for his GM probably knew what was coming). Further, why would you use a single-inning relief pitcher like Marmol less than 18 hours after he had a 30-pitch inning that was one of his worst ever?
Yet use him Sveum did, and Marmol promptly set about issuing walks. Three of them, sandwiched around a strikeout, would have loaded the bases, except that Martin Prado inexplicably took off for third and was thrown out by Navarro. That might have led to an even bigger inning than the D'backs put together. Wil Nieves singled in a run that would have been a pair if not for that caught-stealing. Marmol managed to strike out Cliff Pennington to end the inning, but not until he had thrown 34 pitches (only 17 strikes) and received more boos (as well as a few sarcastic cheers when he threw a strike).
Marmol has now walked 20 batters in 22⅓ innings and with the four baserunners Sunday, has a WHIP of 1.836.
Seriously. Speaking of "done", that's what the Cubs should be with Marmol. Perhaps they will be, before the next game, Tuesday in Anaheim.
Props to Scott Hairston, whose two-run homer in the fifth tied the game. It was the 100th home run of Hairston's career; some Cubs staff people were sent to the left-field bleachers to retrieve the ball for him in exchange for some memorabilia (I believe they did get it; not sure what they offered in exchange). Hairston has looked much better the last week. We'll see if he can keep it up. He should get a start in Anaheim against lefty Jason Vargas in Wednesday's game.
Despite the poor play the last couple of days -- which has now completely erased the positive run differential the Cubs had; they're now at 229 runs scored, 230 allowed -- I still think this team has another winning streak in it. The Pythagorean team record should be 27-28 with those run totals, instead of 23-32. But they have to figure out what's wrong with Edwin Jackson, and rid themselves of Carlos Marmol once and for all.
We now have more than 48 hours until the next Cubs game, Tuesday night at 9:05 CT in Anaheim. There will be plenty to discuss here tomorrow, so make sure to stop by.