NEW YORK – Matt Garza and Carlos Marmol are wired for the Internet. One’s constantly being mentioned in trade rumors, while the other’s an instant trending topic on Twitter.
Cubs fans lit up social media after watching another Marmol meltdown in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the New York Mets at Citi Field. That ruined seven shutout innings from Garza, a free-agent-to-be who looks like a luxury item for a 28-39 team that screams sellers.
Three outs from the sweep and a four-game winning streak, Marmol served up two no-doubt homers, one to ex-Cub Marlon Byrd, and a three-run, walk-off shot that Kirk Nieuwenhuis sent soaring out to right field.
While Garza stood in front of his locker inside the silent clubhouse, you heard a loud crash in another part of the room. Minutes earlier, after finishing his postgame meal, the normally mild-mannered Alfonso Soriano had spiked his plate into a garbage can in anger.
“That’s unacceptable,” Soriano said. “We’re up 3-nothing and Garza pitched a very good game. It’s hard to take. It’s hard to swallow.”
Manager Dale Sveum didn’t have many options when he turned to Marmol to protect a three-run lead. Closer Kevin Gregg (9-for-9 in save chances) had pitched four days in a row. Setup guy James Russell had just worked the eighth inning. Just-activated Shawn Camp hadn’t appeared in a big-league game since May 21 (when he blew a save). The 25-39 Mets had done almost nothing offensively all weekend.
“You can’t push five days in a row,” Sveum said of Gregg. “Marmol’s done it before and the other guys never had to get those last three outs.”
But no explanation is going to satisfy the fans wanting to see the Cubs cut their losses on a $9.8 million reliever with a 10.38 ERA in the ninth inning this season.
“That’s no fun for anybody,” Sveum said. “We all know the reactions he gets and all that. But since he’s been taken out of the closer’s role, he’s done a pretty good job, as well as anybody.”
That slider doesn’t dart like it used to and Marmol (2-4, 6.08 ERA) looks nothing like the All-Star setup guy and dominant closer he was just a few years ago. Soriano remembered that pitcher, but wasn’t sure if a change of scenery would help.
“That depends on him,” Soriano said. “He used to be good –- I think he’s good –- but he lost a little bit of his confidence and this game is all about confidence. You can have the talent. You can have the pitches. You can have the arm. But if you’re not confident, you’re not going anywhere.
“That’s his problem now. He lost his confidence, but I hope that he gets it back and (pitches like) the Marmol that I know.”
Garza –- who gave up only three hits in those seven shutout innings -– said all the right things about Marmol as the Cubs packed up for St. Louis and a four-game series against the first-place Cardinals.
“It’s tough for anybody,” Garza said. “The guy who it’s toughest on right now is Marmol. He tries really hard and he wants it really bad and it just happens. So you just get ready and come back and do it again tomorrow.”
In another audition for contenders, Garza bounced back from last week’s 12-2 beat-down by the Cincinnati Reds and enjoyed throwing to Dioner Navarro, saying he wouldn’t mind a personal catcher. As long as Garza stays healthy, the noise is only going to get louder leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
“It’s just the way the game goes,” Garza said. “I’ve said this over and over: I’ve been part of trade talks for probably my entire career, so it’s nothing new. Like I said, I’ll get ready for the next five (days) and keep doing my part. Everything will take care of itself.”
Marmol probably needs to start over somewhere else, but insisted there’s no mental block in the ninth inning: “It’s not that big a deal, because I’ve been closing games before.” But this bullpen has now blown 14 of 27 save chances. It wasn’t exactly a surprise ending.
“That’s the world we’ve lived in all year,” Sveum said.