The cheers for Travis Wood gave way to boos for Carlos Marmol on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Cubs fans will probably never trust their ex-closer again, waiting for that $9.8 million salary to fall off the books.
But Marmol was once an All-Star setup guy, a key piece to teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008, even if that’s not the way he’s going to be remembered on the North Side. This was vintage Marmol, getting four outs in a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s been frustrating,” said general manager Jed Hoyer, who inherited the final two years of that $20 million contract. “But I do think he’s a lightning rod here.
“People sometimes forget how much he’s pitched here – and how well he’s pitched at times here – and kind of focus on his failures in those save situations so far this year.”
The 30,161 fans got loud in the eighth inning, awaiting Marmol’s 1-2 pitch to Pete Kozma. Marmol lifted his left leg, saw Yadier Molina trying to steal third base and made the easy throw to Luis Valbuena for the third out. Marmol pumped his fist and hopped toward the dugout.
“We know the tendencies of Molina,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He likes to sneak-steal when nobody’s paying attention and we took advantage of his aggressiveness in those situations.”
That helped preserve the win for Travis Wood (3-2, 2.33 ERA), who Sveum called “the best starter in baseball, pretty much” after limiting the Cardinals (20-12) to one run across 6.2 innings and putting together his seventh straight quality start to begin the season.
The Cubs (13-20) watched Marmol work around two hits and one walk and build the bridge to Kevin Gregg, who’s now 5-for-5 in save chances with a 0.00 ERA after signing as a minor-league free agent last month.
“Thank God,” Sveum said.
Twitter seems to explode whenever Marmol (5.14 ERA) starts warming up in the bullpen. He can string together 10 straight scoreless outings – like he did between April 8 and May 2 – but that will be overshadowed by the meltdowns.
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“I appreciate Dale giving me the ball in that kind of situation,” Marmol said. “I don’t worry about those games. Those games are over. I’ll be ready for the next one every day. No matter how you do it, just prepare for the next game.”
Marmol could be paying the price for breaking Lee Smith’s franchise record for relief appearances, 454 and counting.
“Carlos has had a really long track record of success here,” Hoyer said. “This team has expected a lot out of him (and) ridden him really hard over the last few years. Some of that’s probably taken its toll. His fastball and slider aren’t quite where they used to be, but in part that’s because he’s been really durable and really ridden hard by a number of managers here.”
It may not be the ninth inning anymore, but the Cubs will keep riding the rollercoaster with Marmol.