Man, where do I even start?
Here: if using Carlos Marmol in the 9th inning today was Lou's way of "experimenting" with him, trying him out, letting him throw in a game the Cubs seemed to have well in hand, that choice is inexcusable.
That's a very strong statement -- and I know this topic is already being discussed in DGU's FanPost on this issue -- so let me explain.
First, a few people (including BCB reader mrcubsfan and some of his friends, in from Iowa) wanted to high-five me after the Cubs' come-from-ahead 8-7, 11-inning win over the Giants, but I told them sighs of relief were more like it. There's no way the Cubs should have lost this game, going into the 8th inning against a bad team with a 7-0 lead.
But Kevin Hart coughed up two runs in the 8th after throwing a good 7th. OK, fine -- still a five-run lead, no problem, right?
Marmol had no business in this game. Lou stumbled through his postgame press conference, obviously as stunned as all of us were by the meltdown, but he called attention to the play that Marmol made, or didn't make, on Jose Castillo's comebacker, which he kicked into foul territory. Lou said that Marmol was, apparently, trying to make a play at the plate on Ivan Ochoa, who had led off the inning with his first major league hit, a double, and advanced to third on a groundout. Correctly, Lou pointed out that in the 9th inning with a lead that large, you just have to get outs. If the run scores, it's 7-3 and you have two out and no one on. Marmol not only let a run score, he allowed a runner on base (on a play that should probably have been ruled an error) and prolonged the inning.
That's on Marmol. But wait! There's more! Lou isn't blameless here. After two more hits and a walk made it 7-4 and left the bases loaded, Sean Marshall was warmed up and ready to go in the pen and a lefthanded hitter -- John Bowker -- was at the plate.
Where were you, Lou? Marmol had less than nothing at that point. Why wasn't Marshall in the game? Dave said to me, "If Lou doesn't trust Marshall in that situation, why is he on the team?" Agreed. If you have a 13-man pitching staff -- leaving the bench with only Ronny Cedeno and Henry Blanco in extra innings -- USE 'EM!!
Oh, I'm just getting warmed up. After Marmol somehow managed to get Bowker to hit into a force play, scoring a run to make it 7-5, and getting the second out, he hit Rich Aurilia, loading the bases again. Pinch-hitter Eliezer Alfonzo -- recalled ten days ago and 0-for-8 this year -- hit a grounder that Ryan Theriot did a nice job of knocking down.
But then Theriot committed the cardinal (sorry for the terminology!) sin for an infielder -- he didn't eat the ball with no possible play to be made. If he does so, it's 7-6, the bases are still loaded and there are still two out. Instead, on his bad throw, the Giants tied the score, before Marmol finally, at last, got Ochoa, batting for the second time in the inning, to fly out to end the inning, to a loud chorus of boos. I disagree with DGU -- the booing wasn't necessarily for Marmol, it was for the entire badly-played inning, probably the Cubs' worst inning of the year.
Thank heavens for Marshall, who finally got into the game because (apparently) Lou had no trust in Jon Lieber today. Marshall mowed the Giants down easily in the 10th -- the Cubs got the tying run to 2nd with one out, but couldn't score. He did it again in the 11th, and with Lou not trusting Lieber, Marshall figured he'd get it done himself, leading off the inning with a single. After Mark DeRosa walked, Mike Fontenot tried to sacrifice and instead Marshall was forced at third. Reed Johnson ended it, bouncing a single to right that scored Johnson ahead of a frantic throw from Emmanuel Burriss, playing his first major league game in right field (he's a shortstop/2B; the Giants played a whole bunch of people out of position today, including starting a second baseman -- Eugenio Velez -- in left field, and a first baseman -- Bowker -- in right field).
Whew! I'm exhausted and I've only described this game from the 9th inning on. This doesn't even cover Rich Harden's Cub debut, in which he struck out ten Giants, allowed five harmless hits, and departed having thrown 96 pitches (66 strikes), to a loud ovation. (We learned one other thing about Harden today -- he really can't hit. He struck out all three times at bat.) While this was an outstanding performance, Harden's going to have to get past the sixth inning on a consistent basis, or bullpen blowups like the Cubs had today are going to be a constant risk in his appearances.
Jim Edmonds also had a good day today, hitting a two-run HR in the third and a two-run double in the fourth, both off Kevin Correia -- who he had homered off last week in San Francisco.
Hardly seems like Edmonds or Harden played today, doesn't it? My friend Howard, who wasn't at the game today, called to ask if I liked the "first" game or the "last" game best, because the "middle" one wasn't very good. And he was right. I don't know what's wrong with Marmol -- but the Cubs have to fix this quickly, because they need him the way he was before the Tampa Bay series. Since June 19, Marmol has thrown 9.1 innings, allowed 11 hits, 10 walks, hit four batters and allowed 14 earned runs for an ERA of 13.50. That's Triple-A territory, and if Marmol has to go back there for a week or two to get his confidence back (Mike is convinced that's most of the battle, and I think I agree), so be it.
Lou said Marmol won't pitch tomorrow and Kerry Wood has a "blister" (his word in the news conference) which will prevent him from pitching either tomorrow or in the All-Star Game. So who's the closer tomorrow? Maybe Carlos Zambrano.
Cheer the win. Breathe a sigh of relief that DeRosa, Marshall and Johnson came through bigtime in the 11th inning. It rained hard overnight and early in the morning, but cleared out to become a pleasant afternoon with the wind blowing out to right field -- the left field bleachers, near us, were populated by a large group of people wearing blue T-shirts with the image of Rod Beck on the front and "SHOOTER 47" on the back. We never did figure out why.
Till tomorrow. Go Pirates! Go Reds!