Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg had awful weekends in Miami as the Cubs dropped 2 of 3 to the Florida Marlins.
Marmol took the loss on Friday night, giving up 3 earned runs on 1 hit, 2 walks and 1 HBP in the bottom of the 8th inning. The game was tied at 2 when Marmol came in, and promptly lost the game for the Cubs with a mere 22 pitches, this after Rich Harden, John Grabow and Aaron Heilman held the Marlins to just 2 runs over the game’s first 7 innings.
In Saturday’s 9-8 extra innings win, Marmol and Gregg each did their best to blow it for the Cubs. With the Cubs leading 6-5 in the 8th inning, Marmol replaced Angel Guzman and immediately got into trouble by walking the 1st batter and hitting the next. After a sacrifice bunt moved runners to 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, Marmol intentionally walked Jorge Cantu to set up a force play at any base. Then Marmol buckled down by striking out Dan Uggla and Jeremy Hermida to end the threat and preserve the tenuous 1-run lead.
The Cubs tacked on 2 much-needed insurance runs in the top of the 9th inning to increase the Cubs lead to 8-5. Gregg came on for the “easy” save, but after striking out the 1st 2 batters in the inning, Gregg self-destructed. Gregg surrendered a pinch-hit home run to Ronny Paulino (his 1st career pinch-hit HR), issued back to back singles to Chris Coghlan and Nick Johnson, and then served up the game-tying triple to Emilio Bonifacio that tied the game at 8.
Gregg picked up right where he left off on Sunday with another atrocious outing. Jake Fox had just given the Cubs the 2-1 in the top of the 9th inning with a lead-off home run to left field. In came Gregg for the “easy” save and he even retired the lead off hitter Hanley Ramirez on a popout to 3rd base. But then Gregg served up home runs to Dan Uggla and Cody Ross on back-to-back pitches, and just like that the Cubs had lost 3-2.
If not for Derrek Lee’s solo home run in the top of the 10th inning on Saturday, we could be talking about a 3-game sweep by the Marlins.
Manager Lou Pinella and the Cubs are going to need more consistent outings from Marmol and Gregg if they expect to make a run at the playoffs in 2009. Marmol has more electric stuff than Gregg, so at this point, if Gregg has 1 more bad outing (or if his velocity continues to hover in the high 80’s/low 90’s instead of the mid-90’s), I really think Lou is going to have to make a move. Marmol should be the Cubs closer, with Angel Guzman moving into the set-up role. Guzman has a 2.36 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP and if he continues to stay healthy, he is probably the Cubs most reliable reliever at this point. Sean Marshall has been solid in the pen and the addition of John Grabow gives the Cubs 2 dependable lefties. Aaron Heilman is serviceable, and the Cubs may want to consider bringing Jeff Stevens back up to replace Jeff Samardzija (who has been average at best).
The Cubs are now 55-48 and 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for 1st place in the NL Central.