Marmol trying to get his swagger back, and another shot at closing

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Marmol trying to get his swagger back, and another shot at closing

Carlos Marmol screamed and pounded his chest as he walked off the mound late Monday night.

Those words Im not going to tell you would almost certainly be unprintable and difficult in translation. But the displaced Cubs closer who lost his job last week showed he wont go quietly in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The fans however many remained from an announced crowd of 36,307 were on edge at Wrigley Field. Trying to protect a two-run lead, Marmol had walked the first two hitters to begin the eighth inning.

Marmol got Freddie Freeman to line out sharply to shortstop Starlin Castro, who was positioned behind second base, part of the calculated gambles made by manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff before each at-bat.

With the fog hovering overhead, Michael Bourn stole third base and a Marmol wild pitch put the potential tying-run on second. With everyone growing restless, how do you keep your focus?

Not listen to the fans, Marmol said with a smile, before reflecting for a moment. You know what, that made me go, because I needed to do better and throw strikes.

Sveum noticed Marmol hit 96 mph, and thats the point the Cubs have tried to hammer home since the start of spring training: Trust your fastball.

Marmol froze Brian McCann with an 83 mph slider and struck him out looking. He then pumped three fastballs to Dan Uggla and notched another strikeout. He once made these kinds of escapes look routine.

With nights like this, can Marmol get his swagger back?

You sure hope so, Sveum said. Thats part of the reason I never said he wasnt going to close again or setup or (take the) seventh inning. I just told him to always be ready to pitch and to fight his way back to get to that spot again to close ballgames.

It wont be easy for the Cubs to trust Marmol in the ninth inning again. But hes put together two scoreless outings since his meltdown in Cincinnati. Hes still owed around 5.7 million for the balance of this season, and 9.8 million next year. He wants another chance.

Its hard for everybody, Marmol said. Im going to keep working and be positive. Go out there and pitch like you want your job back.

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

With Ben Zobrist sidelined by sore wrist, Cubs move Ian Happ to second base

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.

With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.

Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.

“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”

Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.

[MORE: Is Joe Maddon turning Kyle Schwarber into a platoon player?

Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.

“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.

“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”

Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs look to avoid getting swept by Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers today, and you can catch all the action on CSN and live streaming on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Ryan Dempster. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester (3-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 2.01 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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