- Doug Padilla, Chicago White Sox beat reporter
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CHICAGO – The oddest part of Carlos Marmol’s first blown save since May 2 was that he might have had some of his best stuff of the season Saturday.
The Chicago Cubs’ closer was two outs away from weakening the St. Louis Cardinals’ hold on the second wild-card spot in the National League when Marmol gave up a game-tying home run to Carlos Beltran. The Cardinals won it 5-4 in the 10th against Cubs reliever Jaye Chapman.
“I made one mistake and paid for it,” Marmol said. “That’s the game, though. He made a good swing and I take my hat off to him.”
It was shades of Friday’s series opener when Darwin Barney hit his own game-tying home run in the ninth inning and the Cubs went on to the victory. The Cardinals returned the favor and then won the game on Jon Jay’s RBI double in the 10th inning.
Implored earlier in the season to throw more fastballs and stop relying so much on his slider, Marmol had a fastball that touched 96 mph Saturday and he started off the ninth inning with an impressive three-pitch strikeout of Jay. But after getting ahead 0-1, Beltran crushed Marmol’s next offering onto Sheffield Ave.
“His velocity kind of blew Jon Jay away on three fastballs and got ahead,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Beltran’s one of the best hitters in baseball and he just dropped the head on another 95-plus mph fastball and that’s just the way it happens.”
In converting 19 consecutive save opportunities, Marmol had put together a 0.49 ERA over those outings. He had also been good about avoiding the long ball, last giving up a home run July 6 at New York against the Mets.
“He had a heck of a run, (19) saves in a row, hadn’t given up a home run since the All-Star break and it still took one of the best hitters around to do it,” Sveum said. “That’s stuff’s going to happen with a one-run lead. You’re not going to hold 40 saves in a row with just a one-run lead so he’s done a heck of a job for us.”
He already became the fifth Cubs pitcher with at least 20 saves in three consecutive seasons, he is third on the club’s all-time list with 115 saves and he had a 1.40 ERA since July 14 before coughing up a run Saturday.
It’s been an impressive turnaround after his struggles from last season, but even Marmol knows this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.
“I don’t worry about that,” Marmol said of his success this season. “I care about that but when you go out there you don’t want a blown save. When you go out there you don’t think about numbers, you think about getting people out. That’s what I think.”