Inside Pitch: Cubs

The Sports Xchange delivers insider notes, quotes and more on the Chicago Cubs.

The story was supposed to be a feel-good one about Ryan Dempster coming off the disabled list on his 35th birthday.

Dempster did lower his ERA to 0.95, but the topic of the day was another ninth-inning implosion by closer Carlos Marmol. Although Marmol didn't suffer a blown save, that unfortunate stat went to Rafael Dolis, Marmol gummed up the works as he came into the game in the ninth inning with a 3-0 lead.

Three walks, a hit and an error later, Marmol was out of the game. The Reds won the game, 4-3, with Dolis also suffering the loss.

The Cubs will come home Friday to a firestorm of fan and media criticism concerning Marmol, who has not been a lockdown closer since 2010.

Manager Dale Sveum has been patient with this entire 9-16 team, but he might be ready to pull the plug on Marmol as closer.

"I've definitely thought of it now," Sveum said. "I can't lie to you."

Although former closer Kerry Wood came off the disabled list, he is not a option.

Instead, Sveum said he would consider either Dolis or left-hander James Russell as the closer. Dolis is a rookie. Russell has been the team's most effective reliever thus far, but he's been mostly a situational lefty in his career, which began in 2010.

Marmol really isn't in a position to argue.

"He's the manager," Marmol said. "He can do whatever he wants to do. I agree with that. Whatever he wants to do. I'll take the ball whenever he asks me."

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Bryan LaHair hit his team-leading seventh homer in the fourth inning off Homer Bailey. LaHair has seven of the team's 14 home runs. LaHair also is riding a nine-game hitting streak, during which he's gone 14-for-33 (.424). He has reached base in 21 consecutive games. The last Cubs' first baseman to do that was Derrek Lee, in 2009. LaHair also has home runs in three straight games.

--RHP Ryan Dempster had an efficient outing in his first start off the disabled list. He threw 101 pitches over eight innings, giving up three hits and no runs while walking one and striking out six. Dempster had been on the disabled list, retroactive to April 18, because of a right-quad strain. A hard-luck starter so far, Dempster saw his record hold at 0-1 and his ERA drop from 1.33 to 0.95.

--RHP Randy Wells and LHP Scott Maine were optioned to Class AAA Iowa to make room for RHPs Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, who were activated from the disabled list. Wells made two starts, going 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA. Maine made five relief appearances, going 0-1 with a 1.59 ERA. "I didn't pitch well," Wells said. There's no one really to blame but yourself." With Maine gone, James Russell goes back to being the lone lefty in the bullpen.

--RHP Carlos Marmol has an ERA of 6.23 and a WHIP of 2.31 after Thursday's ninth-inning meltdown. In 8 2/3 innings, he's given up eight hits and 12 walks, including three Thursday. Earlier in the year, Marmol said he was having trouble gripping his slider. Now, it may be case of shot confidence. "Throwing 3-0 sliders when you have a 3-0 lead, that's just not acceptable," manager Dale Sveum said. Marmol said: "I can't find the strike zone; that's all."

--SS Starlin Castro hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the first inning. Castro hit his first career home run, in his first at-bat, two years ago at the Great American Ball Park. He was 8-for-24 (.333) on the six-game trip.

--3B Ian Stewart made a key error in the ninth inning that helped the Reds overcome a 3-0 deficit. It was Stewart's first error since Opening Day. Stewart looked like he wanted to field Brandon Phillips' chopper and tag third base in one motion to start a possible double play. "I thought the best chance for me to field the ball was to try to get an angle on it and charge it," Stewart said. "I was just thinking that was the best way for me to field it."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1, 26 and 35 -- According to Elias Sports Bureau, Thursday's game marked the first time in major league history that to starting pitchers faced each other on their birthdays. The Reds' Homer Bailey turned 26. The Cubs' Ryan Dempster turned 35.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You lose a game like that, I'm embarrassed right now." -- Closer Carlos Marmol

MEDICAL WATCH:

--RHP Ryan Dempster (strained right quadriceps) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 18. He threw a bullpen session April 30, and he was activated and started for the Cubs on May 3.

--RHP Kerry Wood (right shoulder fatigue) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 14. He had a cortisone shot April 18. He threw a simulated game April 30, and he was activated May 3.

--C Steve Clevenger (right oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 26.

--RHP Marcos Mateo (ulnar neuritis in right arm) went on the 60-day disabled list April 4.


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