It's a step in the right direction, at least.
The Cubs hung on to beat the Marlins 4-3 and ended their four-game losing streak, but not before Carlos Marmol had to have visits from both Geovany Soto and Larry Rothschild. Marmol finally did get Hanley Ramirez on strikes to end the game with the tying run in scoring position. He threw only 18 strikes in 33 pitches, not one of his better appearances.
In the bleachers on a cold, drizzly and windy day, several of us were wondering why the Cubs allowed Cody Ross to take second base with two out -- where he scored the third Marlins run on a pinch-hit single by Brian Barden. I can understand defensive indifference to a runner if you're six or eight runs ahead, but with the Cubs offensively challenged and the tying run at the plate, I think you've got to watch any baserunner very closely. The Marlins, a fundamentally sound team, took advantage of this lapse to score that third run, and one single later the tying run was on second base. Fortunately, it got no farther.
The Cubs managed to score in two separate innings (leading 2-0, and then 4-2 after the Marlins had tied the game in the fourth) by twice getting an extra-base hit with at least one runner in scoring position. I know, I know, your head is exploding just thinking about this idea. But it really happened, and what turned out to be the decisive run was scored by Starlin Castro on a Chris Volstad wild pitch.
Castro, for his part, had a productive day with a pair of hits. He was also originally charged with an error on a ball that got by him into center field -- a ball he may not have even touched. The official scorers are simply going to have to get used to him having a lot more range than the previous occupant of his position.
Lou's retooled lineup produced eight hits and four walks in addition to the four runs. Naturally, as he stated in his postgame remarks, this lineup won't last -- Castro is headed back to the #8 spot on Friday when the Pirates come to town and Ryan Theriot (sore hamstring) and Aramis Ramirez (sore bat) are likely back in the starting lineup.
Credit today again to Carlos Silva, who pitched into the seventh inning -- even though he really shouldn't have, considering he gave up three long fly balls that would likely have been out of the park on a day the wind wasn't howling off the lake. Lou should have hit for him in the sixth, even though there were two out and none on base. Silva struggled through three batters in the seventh before Sean Marshall efficiently bailed him out by getting a double play ball on his fourth pitch. Silva now has five quality starts in seven total outings -- and the other two starts were just mediocre, not horrendous. This is precisely the type of pitcher I thought Silva would be -- someone who could consistently give you six, maybe seven decent innings and keep his team in the game by getting ground balls (11 of 19 outs recorded today were via grounders).
After Marshall's easy day, Carlos Zambrano recorded two quick outs, then allowed a pair of baserunners before Marmol bailed him out. Fascinating Marmol fact: he has now thrown 16 innings -- that's 48 outs. 33 of those outs have been recorded by strikeout. The 33 K's rank 23rd in the National League -- all of the pitchers who have more are starters, and next among NL pitchers who have no starts this year in K's is Tyler Clippard of the Nationals, who has 30 -- but has thrown nine more innings than Marmol, who is averaging 18.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Once again, a near-sellout announced crowd of 38,637 wasn't anywhere near that -- maybe 20,000 inhabited the house today, many taking off by the seventh inning. More fights occurred in the left field bleachers -- the Cubs need to put more security people there, as they seem understaffed, and continue to be proactive about ejecting abusive drunks (and, as they have started to do, not allowing people who clearly have been overserved into the ballpark until they sober up). The cold conditions were reminiscent of the game 40 years ago today, May 12, 1970, when Ernie Banks hit his 500th career home run off the Braves' Pat Jarvis. Ernie's greatness may have faded a bit in recent years -- his total of 512 now ranks tied for 21st on the all-time list -- but at the time he hit it, only seven other players (Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott and Ted Williams) had hit 500 career homers.
Speaking of home run milestones, two Cubs -- Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano -- sit at 297 career HR. Perhaps they could both hit #300 in the same game this weekend, while leading their team to victory.
Victory. Nice thought. Hold that till the weekend and sweep the Pirates. The Cubs owe 'em one.