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Thrice Is Nice, But Three's A Tease
by Derek Smart
'Twas a lovely little weekend in the Queen City. It was the first time the Cubs won three in a row since staving off a sweep in St. Louis, then winning the first two of their set against the Marlins in Wrigley, a sequence which took place from April 23-25. That's over a month since the club had won more than two consecutive games, and only the third time all season.
Sadly, it's also tied for the longest happy streak of the year, and if we're being honest with ourselves, had more to do with the Reds playing poorly than the Cubs playing well. Had it not been for the sun in Austin Kearns' eyes, or the inexplicable decision to use Esteban Yan in a game-crucial situation - ie: a lead of less than ten - or any number of defensive miscues by the home team, the series could easily have gone the other way.
The Cubs took advantage of their opportunities, no doubt, but they were given freely of Cincinnati largesse, rather than extracted by force of talent or will. Even during yesterday's offensive outburst, one's feelings of exuberance are tempered by the realization that 7 of the Cubs' 9 runs were driven in by the power trio of Neifi!, Ronny, and Juan - striking fear in the hearts of banjo owners everywhere, I'd guess.
If there's a mostly positive outcome o'er the span, it's the fine work turned in by Carlos Marmol. It was, in fact, refreshing to see a young Cub pitcher toe the rubber and own the joint, rather than the other way 'round, and while one could perhaps take issue with risking his future for a meaningless June contest in a lost season, the fact remains that he acquitted himself well.
Clearly, Marmol has the stuff to pitch in the bigs, so it will be interesting to see, with Glendon Rusch continuing to be a bust of nuclear proportions (I'd pay money to see little mushroom clouds superimposed on the screen with each opposing hitter's bleacher blast), what his fate becomes when/if Mark Prior rejoins the club. Were I a betting man, I'd wager that he's certainly earned himself another turn, and has a chance to claim the spot in perpetuity, what with Mssrs. Wood and Miller finding surgical recovery more arduous than anticipated, and the spectre of July deals looming ever nearer.
I might not be so ready to install him myself, if only from a desire to preserve what talent the Cubs have for a potentially rosier future, a couple years away at best, but like it or not I think we're going to see what the kid has right now, and if things go well we could be looking at a solid part of future Cub pitching staffs. One that might give the organization the cushion it needs to cut bait on the less reliable men it's leaned so heavily on of late.