PITTSBURGH — How important was it for the Cubs to get out of PNC Park 2-1 instead of 1-2?
“Huge,” said starting and winning pitcher Travis Wood, who sweated out the ninth inning Thursday as closer Carlos Marmol endured his second shaky outing only to get out of trouble on a double-play ball as the Cubs held on for a 3-2 victory over the Pirates.
Manager Dale Sveum knows full well what the worst-case scenario could have been.
“It could have been 0-3 really,” Sveum said. “But it’s nice. We were ahead in both ballgames, and we won both ballgames when we were ahead. It’s nice. To start on the road and win two out of three from a good team and three good starting pitchers, that’s a good start.”
The Marmol situation was front and center during and after both Cubs victories. Sveum yanked him in favor of James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa on Opening Day, when the Cubs won 3-1.
They took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning in the finale, with Nate Schierholtz providing what turned out to be key insurance with a 2-run homer in the top of the inning.
Sveum has stated more than once that he’s sticking with Marmol, unless he has his other “weapons” available. Marmol was on his own Thursday as relievers Shawn Camp, Russell and Fujikawa already had worked in the game.
Although not every ball was hit particularly hard in the ninth, Marmol went single, walk, single, single, strikeout before Neil Walker grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
“It’s tough, but I’m still fighting,” said Marmol, who has given up 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 runs along with a hit batter in 1 innings. “I’m going to be fighting every time when I go out to the mound.”
Pitching coach Chris Bosio, who rarely makes mound visits, paid Marmol another one Thursday. What did he say?
“Strike out one guy and get a groundball,” Marmol said. “That’s exactly what happened.”
Sveum said Marmol’s problem Thursday was not an issue of command. On Monday, Marmol had command of neither his fastball nor his slider.
“When he gave up hits, he wasn’t throwing the ball all over the place today,” Sveum said. “That was good. For the most part, things like that can get interesting with him. He got out of it. He got the groundball, struck out (Pedro) Alvarez. He got the groundball when he needed it.
“He was throwing strikes. He walked the one guy, but other than that, they got some hits, obviously, off-the-end-of-the-bat line drive. Nice piece of hitting by Gaby (Sanchez), groundball to the right side through the hole there. But other than, he was OK. It doesn’t seem that way, but it wasn’t too bad.”
Finally, Sveum gave some historical perspective on how far he will stick with Marmol, given his propensity to put runners on base.
“I went with it three months last year,” the manager said, referring to a stretch of 19 straight saves last summer after Marmol’s return from exile. “He got out of all of them. It wasn’t like he was pitch-efficient last year when he was getting out of them, 20 saves in row or whatever it was.”
Get used to it. Or stay used to it.
Ÿ Follow Bruce’s Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago’s Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.