Carlos Marmol gives up 2 HRs in 9th as Cubs fall to Braves
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 6, 2013 9:32PM
Updated: May 8, 2013 7:13AM
ATLANTA — Only five games into the season — and at least five days too late for many Cubs fans — Carlos Marmol is about to lose his job as closer.
“We’re definitely going to talk about it now,” manager Dale Sveum said after Marmol gave up home runs to each of the Upton brothers in the ninth inning, including a walk-off by Justin Upton with one out, in a 6-5 loss Saturday to the Atlanta Braves.
It was Justin’s second of the game.
B.J. Upton had led off the ninth with a line drive over the center-field wall on a 3-1 pitch to tie it.
The embattled closer has not pitched well since the third week of March, finishing spring training poorly and struggling in all three outings since the season began. He has put nine men on base, allowed five runs and retired only four batters.
“I do my best out there, and things go bad,” a visibly upset Marmol said. “I try. I try to go out there and do my best. I don’t say that it’s confidence. I’ve got my confidence. They hit my pitches.’’
Marmol already was on a short leash with the field staff — and a short-timer as far as the front office is concerned. Sveum yanked him in the season opener after only four batters to preserve a win in Pittsburgh.
Now it looks like he’ll lose his closing job before the team plays its first home game Monday, a month earlier than he lost it a year ago.
He returned to the role in June, converted 19 consecutive save chances at one point and had a 1.52 ERA the second half of the season, largely a result of pitching coach Chris Bosio getting him to use his fastball more.
Now hitters are obviously sitting on it.
Where the Cubs will go for a closer in the series finale Sunday is anything but clear.
“[Kyuji] Fujikawa struggled, too, so that’s unfortunate,” Sveum said of the setup man, who turned a 5-1 game into a one-run save situation for Marmol by giving up four hits and a walk to five of the first six batters he faced in the eighth.
“You’ve got [Shawn] Camp and [James] Russell, who seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch,” Sveum said of his sixth- and seventh-inning guys. “They’ve never really had to do the three-outs thing, the last three outs of the game. But there’s a mix of pitches and pitch-ability there, so those are options.”
Much like early-season games went last year, the ending of this one spoiled a good starting-pitching effort and the lineup’s best hitting performance.
Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer, a two-run shot in the fifth; Luis Valbuena hit a solo shot in the fourth; and right-hander Carlos Villanueva gave up only one run (Justin Upton’s first homer) in 62/3 innings in his Cubs debut.
Afterward, Villanueva seemed less concerned about losing a win than about how a guy he has known since he was an opposing outfielder in the low minors was handling his rough opening week.
“It’s tough; I’ve been through it,” said Villanueva, who has worked out of the bullpen for much of his career.
“I just hope that he understands we’ve only had five games. . . . I’m more concerned about him as a human being.
“He’s a strong guy. I talked to him, and I’m sure he’ll recover from this. . . . I know it’s tough. And it’ll be tough for a little bit. But he’s been a closer for a while, and he has that mentality. I have confidence in him that he’s going to bounce back.”
Not that anyone knows exactly how they’re going to solve the issues — whether Marmol or Sveum.
Or even whether it’s more physical or mental.
“If I knew that, I’d be a genius,” Sveum said.