Karma and Gregg? This time it's Marmol
MILWAUKEE - Just when it looked like Achilles had met heel, Cubs manager Lou Piniella did some fancy footwork Saturday night.
Alfonso Soriano had just hit a 2-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to put the Cubs ahead of the Brewers 6-5, and Piniella went to a closer.
Kevin Gregg? Not on this night.
Piniella turned to Carlos Marmol, and Marmol picked up the save, striking out Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder with a runner on first base to nail down a win when it looked the bullpen had let another game walk away.
Naturally, reporters wanted to know if Marmol had supplanted Gregg as closer.
"Gregg is still our closer," Piniella stated. "I can't get them both up. I said that in Houston two nights ago, three nights ago. I can't afford to get them both up because I lose them. So we got Marmol just in case we tied or went ahead, and that was the end of it. He came in and did a heck of a job.
"I said when the season started there'd be opportunities for both of them. But, believe me, tomorrow, if we get into a similar situation, Gregg will be the closer."
Was Marmol surprised when the phone rang and it was for him?
"A little bit," he said. "They called and said to be ready for the game."
Marmol got Rickie Weeks to ground out. After Corey Hart singled, he relied on his wicked slider to strike out the dangerous Braun and Fielder.
Just a couple of innings earlier, Piniella was summoning the karma a day after his bullpen walked five Brewers.
During Saturday's seventh, Piniella watched as relievers Angel Guzman and Neal Cotts combined to walk three batters as the Brewers scored twice to take a 5-3 lead. Piniella look so disgusted after Cotts walked Fielder to load the bases that he waved pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the mound to remove Cotts in favor of Aaron Heilman.
Heilman (1-0) got a groundball, but it went for a 2-run single. Otherwise, he did his job.
"I sent Larry out to take the last pitcher out just to change the karma," Piniella said. "My handoff wasn't good. We were fumbling it. So is said, 'Larry, go change the karma.' "
The Cubs got a fourth-inning home run from Kosuke Fukudome and another solo shot from Aramis Ramirez in the eighth. That was in addition to 6 innings of work by starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano. In the top of the ninth, pinch hitter Reed Johnson singled with one out. The Cubs pinch ran with the speedy Joey Gathright to get pitcher Carlos Villanueva to rush his delivery. Soriano did his part by crushing a changeup well over the wall in left.
"I said to myself, 'Just swing at strikes,' because when I swing at strikes, I make good swings at the ball," Soriano said. "When I swing at strikes, I hit the ball very hard."