I had a really nice and happy recap all written to Thursday's game, but you're not going to get to read it, because of Carlos Marmol.
First of all, I don't understand Dale Sveum's reluctance to let pitchers finish what they start when they are going as well as Ryan Dempster was on his 35th birthday. 101 pitches wasn't that many -- he threw 67 strikes -- and Dempster was absolutely dominant, allowing just three hits (two of them by Joey Votto) while striking out six.
So geez, Dale, at least let him start the ninth inning! Yes, I realize Matt Garza threw a ball halfway to Addison Street when Sveum let him try to finish a CG shutout a couple of weeks ago at Wrigley Field. But every game is different, and Carlos Marmol simply cannot be allowed to close any more games. Whatever closing mojo he once had, it's clearly gone. He can't throw strikes; again today, a ridiculous outing in which he threw only six strikes in 18 pitches. Figure out an "injury" and get him to the DL; the guy is a mess mentally as well as physically.
It wasn't completely Marmol's fault; Ian Stewart booted what could have been a double-play ball that might have helped end the inning and win the game. But after that, Marmol was still bad, giving up a single to Jay Bruce and walking Ryan Ludwick.
Credit to Rafael Dolis in the ninth inning. Dolis came into a nearly impossible situation -- bases loaded, nobody out, two runs already in -- and got out of it with a double play and a strikeout. But then Dolis gave up a hit in the 10th and made a bad throw on a sacrifice attempt, putting runners on first and third, where a sacrifice fly by Scott Rolen scored the winning run in a 4-3 Reds win. Only one of the Reds' four runs was earned.
But seriously, no more Marmol. No more. He's leading the team in walks -- 12 of them -- while throwing a quarter as many innings as Garza and Jeff Samardzija, tied for second with 10.
Here's some of what I wrote before Marmol's blowup about today's game.
Thursday was also Reds starter Homer Bailey's birthday, and the Cubs celebrated that one as well, by hitting three homers off Homer. The Cubs began the day with 11 team home runs and now have 14. That's still not very many, but at least they're moving in the right direction. Today's blasts were by Starlin Castro (his first of the year), Bryan LaHair (LaHomer No. 7) and Geovany Soto (who now has three RBI to go with his two home runs).
The Cubs now have five home runs in 13 games at Wrigley Field and nine home runs in 12 road games.
The birthday thing, meanwhile, is interesting because:
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Thursday's game is 1st time in MLB history 2 pitchers with same B-day faced each other. #Cubs #Reds— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) May 3, 2012
This may or may not be true; Elias more likely meant it was the first time two pitchers with the same birthday had faced each other on that actual birthday date.
Dempster's 0.95 ERA, since he has 28⅓ innings pitched, enough to qualify (you need one inning per team game, so he'd need 25 or more), now leads the National League, slightly ahead of Stephen Strasburg. If he keeps this up, he might have a shot at his second All-Star appearance. If only he could have had a "win" instead today, though I'm sure he would give up a personal "W" for a team "W".
All right, that's about all I could salvage from the "happy win" recap I had written.
They say a team is never as bad as it looks when they're on a long losing streak.
In this case, I think "they" might, in fact, be wrong. This Cubs team might have a chance to be historically bad.
I had several paragraphs written after this saying, well, maybe I was wrong about this; had the Cubs won this game they would have been 7-4 in their last 11 games and had a winning road trip. After today's game, maybe this is right after all.
And as long as Carlos Marmol has the "closer" role, the Cubs aren't going to win many games that he pitches in. Yes, I know he had a 1-2-3 ninth on Wednesday night with a pair of strikeouts and 10 strikes in 15 pitches. But outings like that for him are getting fewer and farther between.
Maybe it's time for some manager -- Dale Sveum, I'm looking at you -- to go against convention and stop letting the "save" statistic dictate the use of a pitcher. There's no reason that a "closer" has to be used in every "closing" situation, especially when he's not getting the job done!!!
Mix and match. Don't call it "bullpen by committee", because doing it that way never seems to work. I know most pitchers like to have defined roles and know when they're going to pitch, but in the Cubs' case, with the season pretty much a writeoff at this point, why not experiment?
Whatever they decide -- and it's going to be a loooooong plane ride home, even though Cincinnati is less than an hour's flying time -- they can't let Carlos Marmol continue to "close" games. They can't.