Cubs

Theo: Its on Marmol to fix the problem

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Theo: Its on Marmol to fix the problem

Theo Epstein has vowed that his front office will block out all the noise while making decisions. But the Cubs president certainly pays attention to what is written and what is said.

Wrigley Field has no patience for Carlos Marmol anymore. You can hear it from the crowd at the first sign of trouble. This probably isnt the best place for a demoted closer to try to win back his job.

But Marmol was back beating his chest late Monday night after escaping an eighth-inning jam in a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. He said the negative reactions from the fans forced him to focus after walking the first two batters.

Epstein who inherited Marmols 20 million contract, which still has a balance of more than 15 million through next season liked that response.

He put it well, Epstein said Tuesday. The way to work through it in this environment is to take the feedback that he gets sometimes and turn it into a positive. Last night he said that the booing kind of motivated him, because he knew he had to get it right and thats a mature approach.

Ballplayers are mainly (driven internally), but you cant help but notice when things like that are going on. So you might as well turn it into a positive.

Marmol earned that big contract with a lights-out season in 2010, saving 38 games in 43 chances and notching 138 strikeouts. Last year he led the majors with 10 blown saves. He entered Tuesday with a 5.06 ERA and 15 walks in 10 23 innings.

Everyone has to recognize he wants to succeed as much as anyone else, Epstein said. No one wants to go out there and fail, especially in a role where you let your teammates down. But hes paid a lot of money to do a job and hes got a lot of support around him. So its up to him to put the work in to go out and fix himself.

But I havent seen any signs of him backing down. So as long as he gives the effort and faces his challenges head-on, were going to support him and help him get where he needs to be.

People whove followed Marmols career since he was just a young kid out of the Dominican Republic remember how long it took the organization to finally convince him to convert to pitching.

Marmol viewed himself as a better hitter than the talent evaluators did. Theres still a stubborn streak, a reluctance to go away from his slider, the one pitch that once made him one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

Since the start of spring training, manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff have been trying to get Marmol to trust his fastball. Even if that happens, theres not necessarily a guarantee that the bullpen will take the same shape again.

I didnt say he did have to (go back in the closers role), Sveum said. Theres a possibility if hes throwing well and hes throwing his fastball and he shows me that hes capable of doing it again.

Kerry Woods right shoulder still isnt ready to handle pitching on back-to-back days. The Cubs like the poise and stuff shown by Rafael Dolis, a 24-year-old rookie. Closing is in the DNA of left-hander James Russell, whose father Jeff saved 186 games in the big leagues.

They will be given an opportunity to borrow a phrase from the front office to grab the job by the throat.

If Dolis is doing well and Russell (succeeds) in that role, Sveum said, Im not going to make change (just) to make change.

Maybe Marmol will find more motivation in that message.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?