Carlos Marmol celebrated his big milestone Saturday by throwing a ball ... and another ... and another ... and another.
No, there wasn't any dancing around the maypole at Wrigley Field after Marmol and the Cubs blew another lead and lost 6-4 to the Cincinnati Reds.
The pattern is a repeating one: The starting pitcher, this time Jeff Samardzija, throws a quality start before the bullpen fritters it away.
Samardzija lasted 6 innings and gave way to lefty James Russell, who pitched a scoreless seventh to preserve a 4-2 lead.
In came Marmol for the eighth. At the time, the Cubs announced that he was making his 453rd appearance, surpassing Lee Smith for first place on the team's all-time list.
Marmol's day went like this: walk to Zack Cozart, walk to Joey Votto and a pitch that hit Brandon Phillips to load the bases.
"I don't even know if he threw a strike today," said manager Dale Sveum, whose team fell to 11-19. "A couple swings, but I don't know if they were strikes. One way or the other, we got to get him fixed. He's got to pitch."
The loud majority in the announced crowd of 36,455 might disagree with that. They booed loudly when Marmol exited after he hit Phillips. Rookie Hector Rondon got charged with the blown save as the Reds went on to score 4 runs.
Here are the season numbers for Marmol: 2-2 record, 6.17 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, 112⁄3 innings pitched, 11 hits, 12 walks and 3 hit batters.
"Just throw strikes, that's all," Marmol said. "I'm giving people a chance to score. Go out tomorrow and throw strikes and get people out."
Marmol opened the season as the Cubs' closer before losing his job to Kyuji Fujikawa, who is due to come off the disabled list soon.
The Cubs have a couple of choices: go back to using Marmol in low-leverage situations or make the bold move and release him with five months to go in his three-year, $20 million contract.
It doesn't appear now the Cubs will go the latter route, even though it might be high time to cut their losses. Marmol has zero trade value.
"He's going to be pitching in roles (with) the game on the line, early in the game, whatever," Sveum said. "One way or another, he's got to get fixed. He's still getting out of innings besides today."
Sveum answered questions about everything from pitch selection to mechanics to whether Marmol is a lost cause.
"He's out there; he's got to pitch," Sveum said. "We only have seven (bullpen) guys, and they have to pitch. ... He's still got stuff. I'm not jumping to any conclusions. It gets tough to have any confidence in (15) people on base in 11 innings without getting a hit."
Marmol ruined more than Samardzija's day. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano hit a pair of 2-run homers (in the first and third) becoming the 70th player to hit at least 375 career home runs. The homers were 2 of 3 hits for the Cubs, who didn't have one after the third inning.
"It's very bad," Soriano said. "It's happened too many times, not to him, but to the whole team. Sometimes we don't get the big hit, and sometimes we don't get the big out. That's the difference between a first-place team and a last-place team because we had so many games we were winning in the sixth or seventh inning, and we gave it to the other team."
Samardzija laid part of the blame on himself, for running his pitch count to 111 to 6 innings.
"If you don't want that to happen, then pitch deeper into the game," he said.
Even though bad bullpens can demoralize a team more quickly than anything -- the Cubs have 8 saves in 16 chances -- Samardzija said he doesn't see the team getting down.
"Maybe on some other teams, maybe," he said. "But this team is pretty resilient. We come to the park every day regardless of what happened the day before ready to work and ready to win the game that's on the board that day.
"I don't think it's going to affect us too much. We still got to learn from these mistakes and get better as a team and get better as every individual unit, whether it's the hitting, the defense or the pitching.
"To win games in the big leagues, you've got to have all three facets going. We know that. We just have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and turn these 'Ls' into 'W's.'"
• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.