CHICAGO (AP) - Carlos Marmol sat at his locker with his head down. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ``What a day,' to no one in particular.
Marmol allowed six runs in the ninth inning of the Chicago Cubs' 7-3 loss to the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, recording just one out in his first blown save opportunity since April 20.
``Some hurt a little more than others,' Cubs manager Mike Quade said. ``You have those days. No one feels worse than Marmol.'
Darwin Barney and Aramis Ramirez hit run-scoring doubles as Chicago scored three times in the eighth inning to take a 3-1 lead. That set the stage for Marmol (1-2), who hadn't allowed a run in his previous 13 appearances covering 13 1-3 innings. He entered the day with 10 saves in 12 opportunities and a 1.17 ERA.
So much for those numbers.
Houston opened the ninth with three consecutive hits, the last a two-run double by pinch-hitter Matt Downs. After Angel Sanchez's sacrifice, Michael Bourn hit an RBI single, Clint Barmes walked and Hunter Pence hit a three-run homer to make it 7-3.
``It was a bad day. What can you do about it?' Marmol said. ``They swung at your best pitch and they hit it.'
Until Houston's rally, the story was a pitchers' duel between Carlos Zambrano and Houston's Jordan Lyles, who became the majors' youngest player by making his big league debut at 20 years, 224 days.
Zambrano allowed one run - Brett Wallace's fourth-inning homer - and seven hits in eight innings. He struck out seven and walked none.
``I was feeling good today,' Zambrano said. ``Everything was moving.'
Lyles worked seven-plus innings and was charged with two runs, one earned, and five hits.
Ramirez went 3 for 4 with two doubles for Chicago, which has dropped seven of its last eight home series. Ramirez had been in a 2-for-17 slump.
``It seems like we find ways to lose ballgames,' Ramirez said. ``Every day it's different'
Fernando Rodriguez Jr. (1-0) came on to get Blake DeWitt on a grounder to second to end the eighth and pick up the victory. Mark Melancon finished for Houston, retiring the side in order in the ninth on seven pitches.
``It's happened to Mariano Rivera. It's happened to Joe Nathan. It's happened to the best of the best,' Zambrano said about Marmol's blown save. ``Marmol is a good closer and it happened to him to.
``He was very down, upset when he came in (to the clubhouse),' Zambrano said. ``I told him to just keep your head up. Tomorrow's another day.'
All of his teammates came to his aid after the game, giving him a pat on the back, according to Marmol.
``Everybody did that,' Marmol said. ``I really appreciated it. It means a lot. Good teammates. Today is over. We lost. I lost. Tomorrow I hope it comes the same situation as today.'
NOTES: The two youngest players in the majors faced each other in the first inning and Lyles gave up a triple to Cubs SS Starlin Castro, who is now the second-youngest player. ... After striking out for the second time in the game in the fifth inning, Zambrano took two tries but finally cracked his bat in half over his right leg. Zambrano invited the media to come and see him lift weights to show how he's able to do it. His manager, though, said he looked away when Zambrano was about to do it, fearing an injury.
The Associated Press News Service
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