Cubs

Marmol trying to get his swagger back, and another shot at closing

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Marmol trying to get his swagger back, and another shot at closing

Carlos Marmol screamed and pounded his chest as he walked off the mound late Monday night.

Those words Im not going to tell you would almost certainly be unprintable and difficult in translation. But the displaced Cubs closer who lost his job last week showed he wont go quietly in a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The fans however many remained from an announced crowd of 36,307 were on edge at Wrigley Field. Trying to protect a two-run lead, Marmol had walked the first two hitters to begin the eighth inning.

Marmol got Freddie Freeman to line out sharply to shortstop Starlin Castro, who was positioned behind second base, part of the calculated gambles made by manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff before each at-bat.

With the fog hovering overhead, Michael Bourn stole third base and a Marmol wild pitch put the potential tying-run on second. With everyone growing restless, how do you keep your focus?

Not listen to the fans, Marmol said with a smile, before reflecting for a moment. You know what, that made me go, because I needed to do better and throw strikes.

Sveum noticed Marmol hit 96 mph, and thats the point the Cubs have tried to hammer home since the start of spring training: Trust your fastball.

Marmol froze Brian McCann with an 83 mph slider and struck him out looking. He then pumped three fastballs to Dan Uggla and notched another strikeout. He once made these kinds of escapes look routine.

With nights like this, can Marmol get his swagger back?

You sure hope so, Sveum said. Thats part of the reason I never said he wasnt going to close again or setup or (take the) seventh inning. I just told him to always be ready to pitch and to fight his way back to get to that spot again to close ballgames.

It wont be easy for the Cubs to trust Marmol in the ninth inning again. But hes put together two scoreless outings since his meltdown in Cincinnati. Hes still owed around 5.7 million for the balance of this season, and 9.8 million next year. He wants another chance.

Its hard for everybody, Marmol said. Im going to keep working and be positive. Go out there and pitch like you want your job back.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 49th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 49th homer of the season came with a runner on 1st and one out, when Oriel Hershiser served up a high fastball that Sammy belted 415 feet into the last few rows in left-center field. 

Sosa would later start the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring the game-tying run on a Henry Rodriguez single through the right side of the infield. Jose Hernandez would step in the next at-bat and walk it off with a base hit that scored Mark Grace, as Sammy and the Cubs bested the Giants 6-5. 

Fun Fact: A 33-year-old Barry Bonds would hit home run No. 25, finishing the season with 37 homers. He would finish the next season with 34 dingers but would string five consecutive seasons with at least 45 home runs, of course hitting a record 73 home runs in 2001. 

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans.