CHICAGO -- The Cubs’ bullpen struggles continued Saturday in a 6-4 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Carlos Marmol had his fingerprints all over another bullpen meltdown. Trying to protect a two-run lead in the eighth inning, Marmol loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter before he was yanked in favor of Hector Rondon. The Reds then pushed across four runs on a bloop single, two sacrifice flies and a bases-loaded walk. The defeat spoiled a solid outing from Jeff Samardzija, who gave up a home run on his first pitch of the game but gave up just two runs (one earned) over six innings. Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs, his second and third of the season.
WHAT IT MEANS: Just when Marmol looked to be figuring out his problems outside of the high-pressure closer’s role, he regressed mightily. The right-hander had delivered 10 consecutive scoreless outings since leaving the closer’s job April 8 against the Milwaukee Brewers. On top of it all, the unsightly result came during his 453rd relief appearance with the Cubs, the most in franchise history, passing Lee Smith’s mark.
OUTSIDE THE BOX: James Russell moved another inning closer to matching the longest scoreless streak of his career. After holding the Reds without a run in the seventh inning, the left-hander now has 16 consecutive scoreless outings to start the season over 12⅓ innings. Russell’s longest career scoreless streak came in 2011 when he went 14 innings. In April, he was the first Cubs reliever in 44 years to not allow a run in the season's opening month while pitching at least 11 innings.
OFFBEAT: Soriano not only hit two home runs in a game for the 31st time in his career, but he also drove in more runs during his first two at-bats of the game than he had all season. The Cubs’ cleanup hitter had three RBIs heading into the game but topped that with a pair of two-run home runs, getting one in the first and another in the third.
UP NEXT: The Cubs will send right-hander Edwin Jackson (0-4, 6.27 ERA) to the mound against the Reds in Sunday’s series finale. Cincinnati will counter with right-hander Mat Latos (2-0, 1.83) in the 1:20 p.m. start from Wrigley Field.