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Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Cubs' Marmol out of control

Cubs right-hander Randy Wells took a no-hitter into the seventh inning tonight, but lost it when Chipper Jones led off with a solid single to left field. In the eighth, Garret Anderson led off with a home run -- his second in two games and just his second of the season -- and then Derrek Lee dropped a throw from second baseman Andres Blanco, which brought Lou Piniella out of the dugout to pull Wells (who had thrown only 83 pitches).

From the bullpen, Piniella summoned Carlos Marmol, his usual eighth-inning guy. Marmol walked Jeff Francoeur on four pitches -- no easy feat -- which led to the following exchange between WGN's Len Kasper and Bob Brenly:

The next batter, Gregor Blanco, shot a liner to right that Kosuke Fukudome managed to collect for the first out. Marmol plunked pinch-hitter Greg Norton. Marmol walked Kelly Johnson to force in a run. He finally escaped after a sacrifice fly and a grounder to second.

Kasper and Brenly are both exceptionally intelligent and thoughtful men; when they talk, I listen. And I can't dispute their take on Marmol this season. That said, Brenly set up a bit of a straw man here. Sure, a lot of people thought Marmol should be the closer this season. I sure did. But Marmol entered this season having averaged, over the previous two seasons, 4.4 walks per nine innings and 12.1 strikeouts per nine, for a solid 2.76 K/BB ratio. He'd been somewhat homer-prone, but Armando Benitez made that combination work for six years.

That was then. Now, nearly a third of the way into this season, Marmol's strikeouts are down, his walks are way up, and his K/BB ratio is just a shade over 1. Throw in the five batters he's hit, and Marmol's exceptionally lucky to have a 3.00 ERA. And while this might be just a third-of-a-season blip, Marmol's advocates should probably lay low until he regains some semblance of control. I know I will.