video thumbnail

CHC@ATL: Cubs fall on walk-off homer in ninth

ATLANTA -- It's only five games into the season, but Carlos Marmol may have lost his job as the Cubs' closer.

B.J. Upton led off the ninth with a game-tying home run off Marmol and his brother, Justin, followed one out later with a walk-off blast, his second homer of the game and fifth of the season, to lift the Braves to a 6-5 victory on Saturday night over the Cubs at Turner Field.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they would discuss Marmol's role on the team, and may consider using Shawn Camp or James Russell as closer. Set-up pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa didn't have his split-finger pitch, and was roughed up as well, giving up three runs on four hits in the eighth inning, as the Braves closed within 5-4.

Marmol now has served up five runs on six hits over 1 2/3 innings in three games for a 27.00 ERA.

"We're definitely going to talk about it now," Sveum said about Marmol's situation. "Fujikawa struggled, too. You've got Camp and Russell, who seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch. They've never had to do the last three outs of the game."

It's tough to pinpoint Marmol's problems.

"I don't know whether it's mechanical, the arm angle or what," Sveum said. "When he throws strikes, he's getting hit now, too."

Trailing 5-4 in the ninth against Marmol, B.J. Upton launched a 3-1 pitch to straightaway center. After Jason Heyward flew out, Justin, who had homered in the first, drove a 1-2 pitch to center for the game-winner. This was the first time the brothers have homered in the same game with the Braves, and the 25th time in baseball history that brother teammates have connected in the same game.

Marmol said the problem was locating his pitches.

"I tried to do my best," Marmol said. "I'm trying. I'm trying to do my best. I've got my confidence. They hit my pitch."

The loss spoiled a solid effort from Carlos Villanueva, who struck out six over 6 2/3 innings and scattered six hits. Villanueva knows Marmol well; they faced each other in the Minor Leagues.

"I'm more concerned for how he feels," Villanueva said. "Results are going to change, obviously. We all want to do well, we want to win every game. I'm more concerned about him as a human being. I've known him for a long time, and I know he'll come back tomorrow and try to get it done again."

The Cubs' offense came alive. David DeJesus and Luis Valbuena didn't have a hit prior to Saturday's game and Anthony Rizzo had one in 12 at-bats, which came on the first pitch he saw on Opening Day. That changed as Rizzo belted a two-run home run, DeJesus doubled and scored in the first, and Valbuena hit a tie-breaking solo home run in the fourth to spark a 13-hit attack.

But the Cubs didn't get hits in crucial situations. They loaded the bases with none out in the eighth and failed to score, and stranded two more in the ninth.

"It could've been a lot more, too," Sveum said of the offense. "Just to get one out of that [eighth inning] would've been nice. We still have to get better that way. We still have to understand pitch selection and all that. The fact of the matter is we had a chance to put the game away and we didn't do it."

The Cubs began the day batting .133 on the season, and had scored seven runs on 16 hits in their first four games. Sveum wasn't worried about the lack of offense.

"I'd be lying if I said we weren't struggling," Sveum said. "It's too early to push the panic button, if that's what you're asking. These guys are the core guys and guys are going to come around. The media guide doesn't lie."

Nate Schierholtz hit a RBI single in the Chicago first, but Justin Upton made it 1-1 with his first home run of the night. Valbuena's first hit of the season came with one out in the fourth, when he homered to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead.

Rizzo, whose only hit had been his Opening Day home run last Monday against the Pirates, collected his second hit and second home run with one on and one out in the fifth. Welington Castillo added a RBI single to make it 5-1.

The Braves began their rally in the eighth. Justin Upton doubled to lead off against Fujikawa and scored on Freddie Freeman's single for the first run off the Japanese right-hander. Dan Uggla singled, and one out later, Gerald Laird walked to load the bases.

"When those guys don't have their splits, you better locate your fastball and he didn't locate his fastball tonight," Sveum said of Fujikawa. "It was up in the zone."

"I think I put myself in a bad situation putting the leadoff guy on," Fujikawa said.

Ramiro Pena then hit a two-run single to cut the deficit to 5-4, but Fujikawa got pinch-hitter Reed Johnson to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Braves had no trouble in the ninth against Marmol. Fujikawa shouldered some of the blame.

"I shouldn't be the one saying it, but if I got that eighth inning in a better way, I could've passed it on easier to Marmol, so it's my responsibility as well," Fujikawa said.

It may be a long night for Marmol.

"He's a strong guy. I'm sure he'll recover from this," Villanueva said. "You've got to take the positives out of it. It's tough and it'll be tough for a little bit. He's been a closer for a while, so he has that mentality. He's got to have confidence that he'll bounce back and lead us to some victories."

MLB.com Comments