The message gets through to Marmol

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The message gets through to Marmol

MESA, Ariz. This isnt fantasy baseball. The players arent robots. Millionaires have egos, doubts and insecurities, too.

Carlos Marmols frustration became obvious this week. Even if it is only spring training, the Cubs closer didnt react that way with his typical shoulder shrug: What can I say?

Marmol had given up seven runs combined in his previous two Cactus League outings, showing his wild side by walking two batters and hitting two more. Your reflex was to look up how many blown saves he had last year (10, which led the majors).

Manager Dale Sveum made it a point to talk to Marmol on Wednesday, to reassure him how much he means to the team, and remind him dont get carried away with it, just keep working to get better.

Marmol walked into the clubhouse in a much better frame of mind during Thursdays eventual 12-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at HoHoKam Stadium. He was exhaling after a scoreless inning, and crediting his third manager in the past three seasons.

(Sveum) really told me what I needed to do. Its nice having a manager talk to you like that, Marmol said. I feel different. I was myself. I calmed down a little bit. Its good the manager lets you know what he thinks.

He understands the players better than anybody else so far.

Sveum, whose style is direct and to the point, laughed that one off when he heard about it later in his office.

I hope he says that when its all said and done, Sveum said. Communication, obviously, is huge. Its just a matter of treating these guys like human beings and understanding theyre human, no matter how much money they make.

Whether its the top guy or the 25th guy on the roster, theyre all human beings and theyre going to fail. Theres so much negativity in this game that you have to give everybody confidence. Its just the way it is. These guys are major-league players and theyve had lots of success and sometimes they doubt that ability they have.

Thats why Theo Epsteins front office has told Marmol that hell be the closer and instructed him to work harder on his fastball command.

They give me that confidence, Marmol said, the confidence that maybe I didnt have last year.

The real verdict will come in the regular season, when there are 40,000 fans on their feet at Wrigley Field watching Marmol do his high-wire act.

But for now, Sveum was just content to see Marmol get the third out, a groundball, using a sinker that pitching coach Chris Bosio recommended with a new grip.

Its spring training in Arizona, said former closer Ryan Dempster. There will be a lot of those struggles. The ball flies here, the infields are fast. Sometimes you see the numbers and you look at it as struggling, but I think the way the ball is coming out of his hand is the most important part. I think hell be just fine.

As Marmol stood by his locker laughing and smiling, he was asked about goals for this season. A key member of the teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008 said the Cubs have to start winning again: The city needs that. We need that.

Myself? Its trying to make the All-Star team, Marmol said. Thats all.

Marmol whose meltdowns helped the Cardinals sneak into the playoffs last season was in such a good mood that he didnt stop there.

The ring, dog, thats what were looking for, Marmol said. I dont want to be jealous (like) last year when St. Louis won. Im trying to get that ring.

Preview: Cubs try for two in a row at Reds tonight on CSN

Preview: Cubs try for two in a row at Reds tonight on CSN

The Cubs take on the Reds on Tuesday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins at 6 p.m.

Catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (9-3, 2.10 ERA) vs. John Lamb (1-4, 4.78)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Some of the craziest facts from Kris Bryant's monster night in Cincy

Some of the craziest facts from Kris Bryant's monster night in Cincy

What a night for Kris Bryant.

The Cubs' second-year third baseman had one of the biggest offensive nights in club history Monday, going 5-for-5 with a trio of home runs, a pair of doubles, six RBIs and four runs scored. That's a whopping 16 total bases.

Some of the crazier facts from CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.

The Cubs had a fun fact of their own (with visual aide):

And this one from the Reds might be the most impressive of all:

We said it before, but it's worth repeating: What a night for Kris Bryant.

Kris Bryant's three-homer, two-double night powers Cubs' win over Reds

Kris Bryant's three-homer, two-double night powers Cubs' win over Reds

CINCINNATI — When Kris Bryant reached the dugout after his record-setting third homer, thousands of Cubs fans in the stands cheered for a curtain call. A few teammates wanted him to take a bow, too.

Nope. That was the only thing Bryant wouldn't do on his historic night.

Bryant became the first major leaguer to hit three homers and two doubles in a game, and Jake Arrieta added a solo shot in the ballpark where he threw a no-hitter in April, setting up an 11-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.

The Cubs pulled out of their 1-6 slide behind a tandem that's had some huge moments in Cincinnati.

"The last couple of weeks haven't been what I've wanted, so I figured I'm due," said Bryant, who hit three homers one time during a college game with San Diego.

Arrieta (12-2) threw his second career no-hitter on April 21 during a 16-0 win over the Reds. Bryant led the way with a pair of homers in that game, including a grand slam that gave him a career-high six RBIs.

Arrieta struggled in his return to Cincinnati, giving up a season-high five runs in five innings, but Bryant drove in six runs again to help the right-hander pull through. Bryant's 16 total bases were a Cubs record, and his five hits marked a career high.

"That keeps you back from those 0-for-20 stretches when you have a game like this," Bryant said.

Bryant doubled home a run in the first, hit a solo homer in the third and added a three-run shot deep into the upper deck in left field in the fourth off Dan Straily (4-5). His solo shot in the eighth came off Ross Ohlendorf, who also gave up a homer to Anthony Rizzo.

Most of the 31,762 fans wore Cubs blue and demanded a curtain call after the third homer. Bryant wouldn't oblige, considering it inappropriate on the road.

"He enjoys the moment, but he doesn't go over the top with it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's very old school. He doesn't spike the ball in the end zone. He just lays it down or hands it to the official."

Arrieta hit an opposite-field drive — his fourth career home run — in the fifth inning off Michael Lorenzen for an 8-3 lead.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner became the league's first 12-game winner despite his worst pitching performance of the season. Arrieta walked a season-high five batters in five innings, and four of them scored. The five runs allowed were his most since he gave up six during a 7-2 loss at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 28, 2014.

"I was my own worst enemy tonight," Arrieta said. "I'm not happy about it."

Adam Duvall had a two-run double in the first inning, Jay Bruce singled home a run and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer off Arrieta, who threw 93 pitches in five innings.

"He still had his stuff," Bruce said. "He just wasn't locating it very well. We had some walks and put some hits together. That's baseball."

The Cubs have the best record in the majors at 49-26 despite their slump last week, characterized by a lack of clutch hitting and poor relief pitching. The bullpen gave up three runs and four hits Monday, including Votto's second homer in the ninth inning.

The Cubs improved to 7-1 against the Reds this season and have won 10 of their last 11 vs. their NL Central rivals.