In Which Them is What We’s Got

I had an interesting day yesterday. It was fun and odd all at once. Not to bore you with the details but I had a good day even though there was no sex involved. So you can tell it was special. sadly my good groove didn’t translate to our sports teams.

The Hawks have done nothing since being embarrassed in the playoffs. And, like the 2007 Bears, it seems we’re supposed to trust that they have all the main pieces in place.

Yeah, me too.

The Bulls claim that they will now try and play defense against the 76ers. This could be an exciting change of pace. I will assume this is the truth until proven otherwise.

The Chicago Fire are better this year than last, but that’s like being the best rapper in Utah. Hopefully they will get back to their elite status but they aren’t there yet.

And then there’s baseball. Dear God there was some ugly baseball yesterday, that’s why I posted a pic of pretty baseball. To help ameliorate the pain.

Yesterday was Ryan Dempster’s birthday. He had a one his shut out in the eighth so, naturally, he was pulled. And then .... well, then Marmol happened. Carrie Muskat was there and began pounding bourbon in the 9th and sniffing glue in the 10th.

Ryan Dempster returned to Chicago on Thursday night to celebrate his 35th birthday with his parents, while Carlos Marmol returned to Wrigley Field unsure about his status.

Dempster was in line for the win after throwing eight scoreless innings against the Reds in his first start back from the disabled list. He had a 3-0 lead thanks to solo homers from Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair and Geovany Soto.

But Marmol, the Cubs’ erratic closer, gave up three runs in the ninth, and Cincinnati won, 4-3, in the 10th on Scott Rolen’s walk-off sacrifice fly off rookie Rafael Dolis.

“I’m frustrated,” Marmol said. “When you’re not throwing strikes, you’re frustrated.”

Before the game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked about how important it was for Marmol to throw strikes, as he had Wednesday, when the right-hander cruised in a 1-2-3 ninth. But on Thursday, Marmol walked the first two batters he faced, prompting a visit from pitching coach Chris Bosio.

Brandon Phillips then hit a potential double-play ball to third baseman Ian Stewart, but it took a weird hop into shallow left and a run scored on the error. Jay Bruce singled to load the bases, and Marmol walked Ryan Ludwick to force in a run and close the gap to 3-2.

What happened on Phillips’ ground ball?

“I thought the best chance for me to throw the ball was to try to get an angle on it and charge it, and it didn’t happen,” Stewart said. “He hit a topspin hopper to me, and I just missed it, plain and simple.”

Marmol was pulled in favor of Dolis, who got Devin Mesoraco to hit into a double play, with another run scoring to tie the game.

Zack Cozart singled to open the 10th and reached third on a throwing error by Dolis, who fielded Chris Heisey’s sacrifice bunt and hit the runner in the back with his throw. Rolen then flew out to right for the game-winning RBI. Instead of Dempster celebrating his first win since last Aug. 11 (he’s now winless in his last 13 starts), he did not get a decision.

“According to our reports, he could be 3-0 and 4-0 now,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said of Dempster. “His ERA is [0.95]. You can’t pitch much better than that. He was mixing it up with fastballs in, fastballs away, cut fastballs, sliders, changeups. Like last night, we weren’t sad to see him go.”

“It was domination again from one of our starters,” Sveum said. “It’s too bad he didn’t get a ‘W’ out of that thing, because it was pretty impressive.”

It also was an historic day. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time in Major League Baseball history that two starting pitchers faced each other on their birthday. The Reds’ Homer Bailey turned 26 Thursday. Could Sveum recall a game in which the two starting pitchers were both birthday boys?

“I’ve only been doing this a month,” Sveum said, “so probably not.”

Castro gave Dempster a gift in the first with his first home run of the year, launching an 0-2 pitch from Bailey to straightaway center. LaHair belted his second in as many games leading off the fourth, an opposite-field shot. He finished the six-game road trip 10-for-23 with three homers and five RBIs. Soto opened the fifth with his second home run, marking the Cubs’ first three-homer game of the year.

Sveum’s bigger problem is what to do with the bullpen. Kerry Wood returned from the disabled list, but he is not able to go on an everyday basis. Scott Maine, who was closing games at Triple-A Iowa, had to go down to make room on the roster. Besides Dolis, Sveum said he could pick lefty James Russell, who is in his second season in the big leagues, to close.

“You’ve got to throw strikes and you have to throw strikes with your fastball,” Sveum said of Marmol. “It’s the same story again. Throwing 3-0 sliders when you have three-run leads is just not acceptable. We have to somehow make an adjustment there. We’ve got to throw fastballs in these situations.”

It’s not as if the Cubs haven’t talked to Marmol about this. The right-hander was one of the most dominant setup pitchers in 2008. Why can’t he do it now?

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know,” Sveum said. “Just the confidence factor or something. We’ve talked about it, and he gets out on the mound and things change.”

Marmol didn’t blame home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley for any of his calls.

“It was me—I don’t make excuses,” Marmol said.

What about possibly losing his job as closer?

“He’s the manager,” Marmol said. “He can do whatever he wants to do. I agree with that. I’ll take the ball whenever he asks me to take the ball.”

Marmol still wants to be the closer.

“Oh yeah, man,” he said. “I worked hard to be at my position, the closer role.”

Dempster can relate. He was the Cubs’ closer from 2005-07.

“I know he’s struggling to find the strike zone and find where he needs to be,” Dempster said. “You’ve got one of two ways to go—you can either back down and be afraid of the challenge or take the challenge head on. I hope he does [the latter].”

The Reds are all saying how they “battled back” and there is some truth to that since they never gave up. But, and this is key, lots of teams seem to “battle back” against Marmol. In fact more teams have “battled back” against Marmol than any other current closer.

The problem is that Marmol loves his slider and, now that teams know it, so do batters.

On the Southside things aren’t much better. A little bit, but not much. Super duper ace starter John Danks which rhymes with “No Thanks, You Stanks” took the mound and decided to see how many Indians could cross home plate.

One little, two little, three little Indians .....

Scott Merkin was there was mainlining heroin by the fourth inning.

John Danks provided absolutely no chance to search for reasons in the White Sox 7-5 loss to the Indians on Thursday at U.S. Cellular Field, with the team finishing this seven-game homestand at 2-5.

After allowing seven runs for a second straight start, Danks (2-4) quickly took full responsibility for this setback.

“I lost the game. That’s straight up. I lost this game,” said Danks, who exited after seven innings and 96 pitches. “They scored five runs tonight, and that’s a good pitcher on the other side. I didn’t give us a chance to win this game at all.

“About the only good thing I did was get us through seven. I don’t know. I think I’d rather me get through five and giving up a few less than go seven and giving up a ton of runs. It sucks. It’s getting comical.”

Yet, Danks was not laughing.

In slipping to 0-5 with a 6.25 ERA in seven career home starts against the first-place Indians (13-10), Danks was touched up for six earned runs on nine hits. That seventh run scored when Danks mishandled a Michael Brantley grounder back to the mound with two outs in the second and then threw the ball away in an attempt to nail him at first. Casey Kotchman brought home Brantley with a single to center.

Seven of those nine hits came off the bat of left-handed hitters against the left-handed throwing Danks. Left-handed hitters entered the game with a .268 average in 41 at-bats against Danks, while right-handed hitters were batting .260 over 77 at-bats.

Manager Robin Ventura believes teams will load up on lefties against Danks to take away his changeup. Danks, serving once again as his own worst critic, had a different take.

“Teams will throw lefties in there until I figure out how to get them out,” said Danks, who walked one but also struck out just one. “I got hit hard by the righties, too. It’s frustrating, obviously. I know I have it in me. I know I can pitch effectively at this level and I got to get back to that.

“[White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper] is great at what he does. I know he’ll find something, and we’ll figure it out.”

Jason Kipnis topped the Cleveland left-handed attack with two hits and four RBIs. The local product from suburban Northbrook tripled home a run and scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single during a two-run third, and then delivered a two-out, three-run homer in the seventh to give the Indians plenty of breathing room.

“It was a cutter in or something that he left up over the plate. I was able to get a good swing on it,” said Kipnis. “I was making sure that I saw his pitches up. I was watching all the other hitters that he was throwing to with guys on base. I kind of cheated almost on 3-1. I kind of stepped a little bit in the bucket.”

“He wasn’t walking guys, he just got a couple up,” said Ventura of Danks, who had walked 16 over 30 1/3 innings coming into this game. “The one to Kipnis is probably the one he wants back. He got that one up, and we just scored a run. That’s probably the one.”

The White Sox (12-13) hung tough against Justin Masterson (1-2), creeping within one run during both the fifth and sixth innings. Alejandro De Aza singled home two in the fifth, following a walk to Kosuke Fukudome and a perfectly placed bunt single from Gordon Beckham, and Alex Rios singled home A.J. Pierzynski in the sixth.

Numerous other scoring chances were wasted.

With two runners on and two out in the sixth, Beckham struck out. In the seventh, after a walk to Paul Konerko loaded the bases with two outs, reliever Joe Smith induced an inning-ending popout to Cabrera from Pierzynski. Finally, in the eighth, with runners on first and third and one out, Eduardo Escobar hit a short fly to center that was caught by Brantley, and Beckham, who had slipped to the ground between second and third, was easily doubled off at first base.

“We didn’t send him,” said Ventura of Beckham’s baserunning mistake. “I don’t think he picked up the ball.”

Adam Dunn’s two-run homer off of Dan Wheeler in the ninth marked the first time Dunn homered in back-to-back games since Aug. 1-2, 2010 with the Nationals. It also cut the Indians’ lead to 7-5, and when Konerko walked against closer Chris Perez, Pierzynski once again stood as the tying run.

Perez (ninth save) struck out Pierzynski looking on a 3-2 pitch and then got Rios on a routine grounder to Cabrera, dropping the White Sox to two games out of first and to 3-9 over their last 12 home games. The loss ended with Rios aiming a few angry words at Perez, who celebrated boisterously after both of the outs he recorded.

As bothered as Rios seemed to be in the moment, he was nowhere near as frustrated as Danks after a second straight rough outing.h, probably not

“I’m not making pitches and getting my [butt] kicked out there, so I’ve got to do something,” Danks said. “I know I will get this ship righted. But it sure as hell would be nice if we get it righted soon.”

Since only I, and every opposing batter, have noticed that Danks is tipping his pitches, I guess that bit of information isn’t very important. He drops the front of his glove forward a little bit every time he throws a fastball. If I noticed that don’t you think all those guys teeing off on his fastball have noticed it too?

Nah, probably not.

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