Cubs' Marmol has been shaky but effective

CHICAGO –Time to spread this news while you still can: Carlos Marmol is on a consecutive games-saved streak.

The Chicago Cubs' closer might not have always looked pretty while doing it, but he has converted each of his last eight save chances, a far cry from earlier in the season when he was yanked from his closer role.

He has played a huge role in the club’s resurgence of late, but he’s had some help too. Marmol is still putting people on base, sometimes at an uncomfortable rate, but he’s getting some defense to help him. He has avoided putting a runner on base just twice over his last 11 outings.

On Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he gave up a hit and a walk, but Reed Johnson made a catch up against the right-field wall and Anthony Rizzo ranged to his right to start a game-ending double play.

“It’s still throwing strikes when he has to,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That seems to be what he’s been able to do. Sometimes the pitch count looks like it’s getting up but all of a sudden he’s getting some double-play balls or making the pitches when he has to and throwing the slider for a strike, throwing the fastball. As long as he’s throwing the strikes when he has to it’s all he has to do really.”

It’s been a new concept for Marmol to pitch to contact and he has often looked uncomfortable doing it. But it’s been working of late, even if it has looked shaky at times.

Seven of Marmol’s eight consecutive saves have come since regaining his closer role on June 15 against the Red Sox. His only rough outing since June 15 was last weekend at New York when he gave up three runs. It wasn’t in a save-situation, though, and he ultimately preserved the victory.

“It’s something that I think he hit rock bottom there when we took him out of the closer role,” Sveum said. “I think he had to sit back and realize this contact stuff is OK, that I don’t give up a lot of hits even when I’m in the strike zone. Let the defense do its work and get the double-play balls when people get on base but throw the strikes. Get in the strike zone when I have to get back in the strike zone. I think that’s the biggest key that he’s able to throw the strike when he has to now.”

Marmol doesn’t figure to be a part of the Cubs’ long-range plans, but by being able to assume his old job, the rest of the relievers have been able to settle into consistent roles. That has allowed president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to get a better assessment of the relievers the Cubs do have.