As bad as it's been for the Cubs this year, could it get any worse?
Really, could it?
Well, they plumbed new depths Thursday night as the unofficial second half of the season began. About the only way to describe their 6-3 loss to the Florida Marlins was "so 2011 Chicago Cubs."
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead into the ninth inning, thanks largely to good starting pitching by Matt Garza and solid setup inning by Sean Marshall.
In came Carlos Marmol, and out the window went a victory.
Marmol threw only 1 strike over his first 13 pitches as he walked the bases loaded. Before the inning was over, three Cubs relievers combined to give up 6 runs, with Marmol being charged with 5.
Manager Mike Quade, who talked bravely before the game of the Cubs getting "better" in all phases of the game in the second half, talked afterward only of the pain of another loss, which put the Cubs 19 games under .500 at 37-56.
He answered "not right now" to a question on Marmol losing his job as closer after Marmol ran his record to 19-for-26 in save chances.
But if this wasn't the worst loss in a bad season for the Cubs, it was right down there with all the bad ones.
"I don't know about the most, but it hurts pretty bad," Quade said. "These guys will come back and be ready to play tomorrow, but we've got to find a way to finish a game like that. Marm's the guy and has been the guy and needs to be the guy. He'll be better."
Marmol had no command of his slider or his fastball, but he said he has not lost his confidence, even as he and Quade were both booed lustily by the Wrigley Field crowd of 38,145 after Quade yanked Marmol in favor of Kerry Wood.
"Of course," he said when asked if he could maintain his confidence. "Of course. Why not? It's a bad game, a couple bad games. You can't talk about bad games. You have to focus on good games."
Even Quade had to admit this was a really bad one for Marmol.
"That was pretty bad; that was as bad as I've seen him," Quade said. "Still, you feel like he's got a chance to pull it together. I've seen him do that, too. But not tonight."
Before the game Quade was asked what he'd like to see in the second half.
"Play better, execute better, pitch better, hit better," he said. "We've got to do better, and, I talked to the guys before the workout. This is the healthiest group I've addressed since Wellsie and Cash (pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner) went down in their first starts. Let's see if we can stay healthy and be a better team."
The Cubs played decent, if not perfect, ball for the first eight innings. Marlon Byrd gave them a 1-0 lead with a homer in the second. They put another run across in the seventh.
Because he plays for the Cubs, Garza saw his record hold at 4-7 despite an ERA of 3.97.
"You can get upset all you want," Garza said. "But it's not going to fix anything."