In the piece I wrote after the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day win in Pittsburgh, I stated my hope that Carlos Marmol was out as the Chicago Cubs closer, and that Kyuji Fujikawa would be installed into this all-important role. And apparently my wish came true, and only six days into the season.
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After nearly blowing a save opportunity in the final game in Pittsburgh, Marmol followed up with another gem in Atlanta. The Chicago Cubs held a comfortable 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday night. The Cubs were six outs away from evening up the series after a Friday loss, setting up a decisive game for the series on Sunday before Monday’s home opener at Wrigley.
Sveum decided to use Fujikawa, the Cubs’ new multi-million dollar reliever, in a setup role. So what if Fujikawa struggled himself, and allowed three runs to score in the eighth? Marmol was still on a short leash, remember? But here was the problem last night: If Marmol struggles in the ninth, who replaces him? Not Fujikawa, after Sveum burned him in the eighth inning. Not James Russell or Shawn Camp, who are two-for-nine and 12-for-28 in save opportunities over the course of their respective careers. In other words, Sveum’s short leash wasn’t really a leash at all, once Fujikawa was out of the game. It was to be Marmol or famine for the Cubs.
I remember the Malachi Brothers and their “Malachi Crunch” from the Happy Days episodes of the 1970s. Saturday night in Atlanta, the Brothers Upton stood in for the Malachis, and delivered a Crunch of their own on the Chicago Cubs. The Upton Crunch crushed manager Sveum like he was Pinkie Tuscadero, out there on the hood of the 2013 Chicago Cubs, holding Carlos Marmol’s short leash all the way into the Turner Field bleachers.
Now that the Chicago Cubs have already lost their first road series of the year, they need another great outing from Jeff Samardzija to avoid a series sweep. Fortunately for Chicago Cubs fans, the ninth inning will no longer be in Marmol’s hands, and that is truly a relief.