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:
- Kasper: Carlos wasn't that close in any of those pitches, and this is a pattern that we've seen a lot from Marmol this season. Early on in an appearance, having trouble throwing strikes.
Brenly: And I know there are a lot of Cub fans out there that want to see Carlos Marmol in that closer's role with this ball club, and I think it's inevitable that at some point in the future, whether it's this year or next year, Carlos Marmol will be the closer for the Chicago Cubs. But keep in mind, those of you who want Carlos to close ball games, what happens a lot of times when he comes into the game. He walks the first batter he sees on four pitches ... We've seen him come in and hit a couple of guys before settling down and finding the strike zone. And when you're nursing a three-run lead or less in that ninth inning, that is the last thing in the world you want to happen.
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.