When Carlos Marmol came into Thursday’s game against the Reds, he had a three-run lead to work with. It was technically a save situation, so the lame excuse that a closer can’t properly focus without a save to be had didn’t apply. And the Reds’ offense had been held in check all day, with Ryan Dempster pitching two-hit ball over eight innings.
Dempster had thrown 101 pitches through those eight innings, which was probably a lot for someone who was just coming off the disabled list. And it was a warm day in Cincinnati, so he probably should have been done for the day. But hindsight is 20/20, isn’t it?
If Dempster had gone out to start the ninth, it would have only taken one good at-bat by a Reds hitter to run his pitch count already higher than it was. And a team that has any hope of competing needs to have a bullpen to turn games like this over to. So it was certainly a no-brainer to bring Marmol into the game.
But after eight of Marmol’s first nine pitches were balls, Dale Sveum had to pull him out. Had Sean Marshall not been traded away — to Cincinnati, ironically enough — he could have come in to try and stop the bleeding. Instead, Marmol faced another three batters, which resulted in a fielding error, a single, and another walk.
Rafael Dolis came in at this point, with the bases loaded and no outs. He did well just to give up the one run, but that was enough to tie the game and force extra innings. And then, when Dolis went back out for the 10th, he gave up a run and took the loss. A hard loss, for him and for the team as a whole.
This was Dempster’s first Marmol of the year, but the third one of his career, after tying for the team lead with two of them last year. He’s also the career co-leader with three Marmols lifetime, tied with Matt Garza for that dubious distinction.
What is a Marmol, you may ask? A Marmol is awarded to a pitcher who is in line for a victory, but then has it taken away when a closer fails to hold the lead. Marmol has accounted for 12 such games, going back to last season, when the statistic was first measured.
The Cubs had an astounding four pitchers (Dempster, Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Rodrigo Lopez) who picked up two Marmols each in 2011, while Casey Coleman suffered one. This year, the majority of the Cubs’ starting rotation has already acquired a Marmol, with only Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm untouched to this point.
Hopefully, enough is enough, and Marmol will be demoted to the bullpen or traded to another team. May there never be another Marmol awarded, at least not as a result of Carlos Marmol’s pitching.
Why anyone would want to take him off the Cubs’ hands is a good question, though. Marmol is getting big money, and teams now know exactly what risk they’re taking when if they were to send him out with a lead late in a game. The Marmol race has grown old in a hurry, and it’s a title that no pitcher wants to have. Let’s give some other pitcher the chance to close games, instead.