Cubs' faith in Marmol never stronger
Righty yields key homer in first playoff game, but has support
PHOENIX -- If it's the seventh inning and the Cubs are tied or within a run of the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, would the team want Carlos Marmol in the game?
"Absolutely," Cubs closer Ryan Dempster said Thursday.
In Game 1, Marmol replaced Carlos Zambrano, who had given up one run on four hits over six innings, and served up a tiebreaking homer to Mark Reynolds, and ended up with the loss.
Marmol has handled the seventh and eighth innings this season, compiling a 1.43 ERA in 59 games, the third-lowest ERA in the Majors among relievers. He hasn't lost his job, but Cubs manager Lou Piniella does have other options, such as Kerry Wood. Marmol is the pitcher of choice.
"We're going to change because of one game?" Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Thursday. "I don't think it would be good for the team or good for him or good for us.
"He's a young kid in his first postseason game. He rushed things, and usually he throws his breaking ball for strikes, and he didn't. That doesn't mean he won't do it the next time out."
Marmol relies on his slider, but Reynolds connected on a fastball on a 2-1 pitch in the seventh.
"I think it was a little bit of a learning experience for him," Piniella said of the right-hander, who wasn't called up to the big league team until May 18. "He's pitched awfully well. Last night, the matchup with Reynolds was excellent for him. He just couldn't get the breaking ball over."
Veteran reliever Bob Howry saw the same thing.
"What I saw last night was a kid who was a little, maybe over-geared up, just by watching the way he threw the first two breaking balls and how far he missed with them," Howry said. "Maybe he was just trying to do too much.
"I think it's one of those things that he went out there and got that inning in, got his feet wet, and hopefully now he knows what to expect. We've seen what he did all year. I expect we'll see what we saw most of the season."
Dempster, who has endured his share of ups and downs as the closer, supported Marmol 100 percent.
"He's been nails all year," Dempster said. "That's the tough part, when you create expectations of being perfect all year and have one little blip -- unfortunately, it came in Game 1. [What Marmol did isn't] the reason we lost the game.
"He's going to be right back out there, and that's what I like about him. He's not afraid of anybody. It [stinks] -- everybody puts it on him that it's his fault we lost the game. We're a team -- it's never one person's fault. Go out there and win a game tonight and put it all behind us."
Rothschild also noticed that Marmol was overthrowing. The right-hander's first pitch to Reynolds was a 96-mph fastball, and then he missed on the next two sliders.
"Carlos has been able to throw his breaking ball over when he's behind in the count all year," Rothschild said. "You don't necessarily have to throw a fastball there. If he gets it in a good spot, it's OK."
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Since it's the postseason, that one pitch is magnified. But what Marmol has learned over the season is to shake off the few bad experiences he's had. He has to if he's going to be successful in the 'pen.
"You never know how somebody is going to react to that first shot in the playoffs, especially in a tight ballgame," Howry said. "We know what [Marmol is] capable of. If he's in there tonight, we expect to see what we saw all year."
The Cubs are glad Marmol had a chance to get tested in the playoff opener, and not Game 7.
"It's Game 1 -- it wasn't, 'We lose that, and we go home,'" Howry said. "There's more to that game than that one inning."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.