Ever since Angel Guzman was lost for the year early in spring training, the eighth inning has been a major question mark for the Chicago Cubs.
Breaking camp, the most logical option seemed to be John Grabow but he struggled out of the gate. Then Esmailin Caridad had a chance to step up but a series of injuries put him on the shelf. Desperate for help, the Cubs turned to their ace Carlos Zambrano to fill the role.
Zambrano has been okay as a reliever, posting a 4.76 ERA with 3 holds, but he is scheduled to go back into the rotation as early as next week. This means that the eighth inning role is up for grabs again and all indications currently point to Sean Marshall.
After getting Josh Hamilton with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and tossing a scoreless eighth in Sunday’s 5-4 win over Texas, Marshall has allowed just 13 hits and 5 runs in 23 1/3 innings (1.93 ERA) while striking out 30 batters. In fact, since April 22, Marshall is 4-0 with 4 holds and a 0.69 ERA.
I see many similarities between the Cubs’ combination of Marshall and Carlos Marmol with Washington’s Tyler Clippard and Matt Capps. Aside from the fact that both pairs of teammates share the first letter of their last names, there were question marks surrounding all of them coming into the season.
But all four of the relievers have had success — and in very similar ways. The eighth inning guys are both tall pitchers that rely on off-speed pitches and have had many decisions out of the bullpen. The closers are both hard throwers that have been able to get the job done when given the ball late.
Here is the statistical comparison:
The Nationals are 18-1 this year when leading after seven innings. Imagine where the Cubs would be right now with that kind of quality relief pitching.
Silva wins again: Carlos Silva remained unbeaten and improved to 6-0 this season by tossing 5 1/3 stellar innings against the Rangers. Along with San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum (5-0) and Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (4-0), Silva is one of three starting pitchers in the league who has yet to lose.
The last time a Cubs pitcher started the year at 6-0 or better was when Ken Holtzman went 9-0 in 1967.
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Written by Eddie Kim