May 8, 2013 by Ryan S
The Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 in Chicago this evening to improve to 13-20 on the season. The win was their second in a row after beating the Texas Rangers (20-13) at home yesterday in a 9-2 blowout.
Pitcher Travis Wood dazzled again, throwing 6.2 innings and allowing just one earned run– a homer that he allowed in the top of the second inning to Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig. He gave up five hits and two walks while striking out eight to improve to 3-2 on the season with a 2.33 ERA, which leads all Cubs starters.
He’s also thrown seven consecutive quality starts to begin the season, not too shabby. Not to mention that great beard that he’s got going on.
Interestingly, manager Dale Sveum replaced Wood with P Carlos Marmol with the bases empty and two outs in the top of the seventh inning in somewhat of a head scratcher. I’m typically not the guy who is going to question the moves of the manager, but in this instance, I will. It is true that Wood had thrown 114 pitches, but he had already thrown 104 after six innings, so it wasn’t just a couple of deep counts that brought him over the 100 pitch mark.
By the way, he struck out both of the batters that he faces in the seventh inning, C Yadier Molina and 3B David Freese. My only speculation is this– in a tight ballgame, if Sveum knew he was going to use Marmol, he may have decided that it would be best to put him into the game with two outs in the inning. This way, if he allowed base runners, which he did, he would only have to get one out to get out of the jam.
This way, maybe he could already have some momentum heading into the eighth inning. If that was his reasoning, I suppose I get it. If it wasn’t, I’m lost. Where I’m definitely lost though, is the Cubs bullpen. I’ll get back to this a little later.
Marmol came in and allowed two base hits and a walk in 1.1 innings, and got out of a jam to end the eighth inning. Kevin Gregg came in for the ninth and saved his fifth game of the season, and still has a 0.00 ERA this season, and a 0.82 WHIP in eight games. Sveum had high praise for Gregg after the game, calling him a great acquisition. He certainly has been as asset to the bullpen since he was picked up.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Cubs picked up five hits today, the key one being a two-run homer by OF Nate Schierholtz with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. It turned out to be the game-winner, as neither team managed to put any on the board the rest of the way.
Now, with regards to Marmol, Sveum said this past week, “He’s one of the seven guys [in the bullpen], and he’s got to pitch, and we’ll get him back out there in some fashion. You can’t hide people. They have to pitch.”
To some extent, I agree with that. Especially when it’s Marmol, and we know how special he can be when he’s dominant. After all, this is the same guy who compiled a 1.52 ERA in 30 appearances after the All-Star break in 2012. But when Sveum says that you can’t hide people?
Marmol has already pitched four times thus far in May. Compare that with the rest of the active bullpen: Michael Bowden (2), Shawn Camp (2), Kevin Gregg- the closer- (2), Hector Rondon (1), and the lone southpaw James Russell (3). I exclude Rafael Dolis from this because he was jut recalled from AAA Iowa in the past couple days. Not only has he not hidden Marmol, he has used him the most out of anyone else in the ‘pen. And what’s frightening is that he’s still willing to use him late in close ballgames.
Marmol has a 5.14 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP. He’s allowed multiple base runners in nine of his 16 appearances, and has only pitched in three games without allowing a single base runner. When he’s bad, he’s awful. When he’s good, he still scares the heck out of me. He’s allowed 13 hits and 13 walks in 12.2 innings and has had a maximum of four days rest between any two appearances this year and that was just once.
I think I’m not alone in saying that he should be used more sparingly while he works with pitching coach Chris Bosio to address some of his issues on the mound, and some other, less utilized relievers should be on the mound. Marmol is behind Rondon, Bowden, Russell and Gregg in ERA, making him fifth out of six aforementioned relievers. He’s also dead last out of the ‘pen in WHIP and BB/9.
To put this into perspective, Marmol has walked two more batters than SP Carlos Villanueva in 27 less innings. I’ve been a big supporter of Sveum’s since his hiring, but his love affair with Marmol must end immediately. In the end, if the Cubs continue to lose games because of poor usage of its players and namely the bullpen, that falls on the manager. And I’d hate to see Sveum go this early into his Cubbie career because I think there’s a lot he can do here.
Regardless, the Cubs win! Two in a row, and tomorrow Villanueva (1-2, 2.85 ERA) will go up against Cardinals P Jake Westbrook (2-1, 1.07 ERA), and as always, go Cubs!