Bullpen implosion dooms Cubs

Bullpen implosion dooms Cubs
May 4, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Alex Ruppenthal

Cubs manager Dale Sveum couldn’t remember if Carlos Marmol had thrown a single strike in Saturday’s game.

He threw one, and Reds hitters fouled off three more, but the rest of Marmol’s pitches were balls, and not the kind that almost caught the corner.

Marmol took the mound for the 453th time as a Cub in the eighth inning, passing Lee Smith for the most relief appearances with the franchise. As he set the record, Marmol recorded zero outs, walking two batters and hitting another with the Cubs leading 4-2. Sveum removed him for Hector Rondon, who gave up a single and sacrifice fly before walking Xavier Paul with the bases loaded to make it 5-4 Reds, which held on for a 6-4 win in front of 36,455 at Wrigley Field.

[RELATED: Sveum wants Barney to stick with one swing]

“One way or another, we've got to get him fixed,” Sveum said. “He's got to pitch...We only have seven guys [in the bullpen], and they have to pitch."

Over the past couple seasons, Marmol has been so unpredictable that he’s become almost predictable, in the sense that neither a 1-2-3 inning nor a collapse like Saturday’s come with any surprise.

“I don't think anything bad is going to happen,” Marmol said. “I don't think I'm going to walk people. That's it.”

[WATCH: Marmol speaks after another bullpen blowup]

Before Marmol's implosion, the Cubs looked to be on their way to a tidy two-run win. Alfonso Soriano hit two two-run homers--he had just one home run all season coming into the game--and Jeff Samardzija made it through six innings after running up his pitch count early.

Sveum thought Marmol might still be able to sneak out of the eighth after walking the first two batters, as he’s done many times before.

[WATCH -- Sveum on Marmol: It gets tough to have any confidence in him]

"You give him a chance to get a ground-ball double play,” Sveum said. “…But he ended up hitting [Brandon] Phillips … You could tell the slider was spinning. There was obviously no command of any fastball. We were just going to do our best to get Rondon in the game and hopefully get a ground ball and give up one, but obviously that didn't happen … But at least [Rondon] came in and threw strikes and threw with some conviction out there.”

Having watched Marmol fold so many times, Sveum was asked if he’s become a lost cause.

"He's still got stuff, so I'm not jumping to any conclusions,” he said. “It gets tough to have any confidence in him, 16 people on base in 11 innings without getting a hit."

Samardzija gave up one earned run but committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt to first that led to an unearned run.

“You just hope he keeps working, keeps doing his thing, and when he's in the zone, he's unhittable,” Samardzija said. “And I think he needs to know that too. His stuff is unhittable.”

[WATCH: Samardzija says he needs to work deeper into games to help the bullpen out]

The Cubs want the version that goes over the plate – not the kind that’s so far away, nobody could hit it if he tried.

Soriano sets milestone

With his two home runs, Alfonso Soriano became one of 70 players all-time to hit 375 career homers. Soriano also recorded his 31st career multi-homer game.

“I know [I had] a bad April, but [I] never give up,” he said. “I’m always working hard to get better every day. I know myself and I know sooner or later I want to have a good day like today.”

Castillo has swollen ankle after being hit by pitch

Cubs catcher Welington Castillo was hit by a pitch on the ankle in the second inning Saturday.

"He's pretty sore,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It's pretty swollen. So it's going to be pretty swollen tomorrow I'm sure."

Sveum didn’t say whether Castillo would play Sunday.