Daily Dose: Now closing, Carlos Marmol

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Carlos Marmol was the most dominant reliever in baseball last year, yet Lou Piniella went with Kevin Gregg at closer to begin the season. Five months later Marmol has issued 52 walks and plunked 11 batters in 56.1 innings, yet Piniella handed him the closer job Tuesday after Gregg predictably struggled while posting a 4.47 ERA and blowing six saves in 29 chances.
Marmol has been nowhere near as good as he was last season because he’s rarely been able to throw the ball over the plate consistently, but remains extremely difficult to hit with 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a .163 opponents’ batting average. He’ll obviously need to stop walking a batter per inning to have success, but he’s just as clearly the Cubs’ best bet for a shutdown guy and Gregg was miscast in the role.
While the Cubs make the correct decision about 120 games too late, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Texas’ vaunted catching depth has been a bust this year, as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden have combined for a .664 OPS and Max Ramirez has missed time with a wrist injury at Triple-A. Saltalamacchia is now on the disabled list with an arm injury, so the Rangers’ search for help behind the plate brought them back to the greatest catcher in team history, Ivan Rodriguez.
For the cost of two marginal prospects the Astros sent Rodriguez back to where his Hall of Fame career began, but unfortunately for the Rangers he’s just a shell of his old self at the age of 37. Rodriguez’s numbers at the plate are almost identical to the poor totals posted by Texas catchers and he’s expected to merely split starts down the stretch with Teagarden. Not a bad stop-gap pickup, but don’t expect much.
* Having suppressed his service time long enough to push back arbitration and free agency, the Blue Jays recalled Travis Snider from the minors Tuesday. Snider had a modest .736 OPS in 188 plate appearances during previous stints in Toronto, but the 21-year-old has big-time power potential after blasting 33 homers and 39 doubles in 164 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Avoiding tons of strikeouts will be key.
* Speaking of suppressing service time, the Royals sent Alex Gordon to Triple-A on Tuesday despite the fact that the 25-year-old has logged 1,281 plate appearances spread over 314 games in the majors and we’re two weeks from rosters expanding. Gordon has hit just .227/.310/.333 in 22 games since returning from hip surgery, but it seems obvious that the move was made to push back his eventual free agency.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Morneau sat out Tuesday’s game with an inner-ear infection and Jason Kubel exited early after fouling a ball off his leg … Felix Hernandez threw seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday before the bullpen blew what would’ve been his 13th win … Dustin Pedroia has left the Red Sox to be with his wife for the birth of their first child … Jake Peavy allowed three runs over four innings in a rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A … Aubrey Huff made his Tigers debut batting fifth and playing designated hitter Tuesday … Meanwhile, the Orioles replaced Aubrey Huff by calling up former top prospect Michael Aubrey from Triple-A … Joe Saunders (shoulder) is unlikely come off the disabled list when eligible Sunday … Anthony Swarzak will start Thursday with Brian Duensing pitching Saturday following Francisco Liriano’s trip to the DL.
NL Quick Hits: Stephen Strasburg isn’t expected to make his big-league debut this season … Conor Jackson’s rehab assignment has been put on hold following more complications from valley fever … General manager Doug Melvin admitted Tuesday that the Brewers are “working on something” for Bill Hall … Gaby Sanchez is back with the Marlins after getting just two at-bats during his previous call-up … Johnny Cueto is still listed as Friday’s starter despite indications that he’d be skipped in the rotation … Chris Young is hoping to be ready for spring training after having surgery Monday to shave fraying in his labrum … Nick Johnson (hamstring) was out of the lineup again Tuesday and expects to miss several more games … Mike Hampton was placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a strained shoulder … Carlos Gonzalez batted leadoff Tuesday, with Dexter Fowler moving to the second spot … Ubaldo Jimenez tossed eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday for his fifth straight win.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.