Big League Stew

After another poor outing, Marcum vows to pitch again in NLCS

David Brown
Big League Stew

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MILWAUKEE — Shaun Marcum might be in denial.

The St. Louis Cardinals struck for five runs and seven hits over four innings against Marcum on Monday night, including a no-doubt home run and a well-hit double by Albert Pujols, on their way to a 12-3 thumping in Game 2 of the NLCS.

Marcum has been roughed up in five of his past six starts going back to the regular season, and hasn't pitched anything like he did during the first five months. Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke says he will stick with Marcum when — or if — his turn comes to pitch again in the playoffs.

That's the way it should be, said Marcum, who chalks up his recent failures to, mostly, bad luck.

"I guess I pissed off the baseball gods, or something, because they didn't hit many balls hard," Marcum said. "That's the way it's gone the last six weeks. There's nothing I can do about it."

Pujols came in 1 for 12 for his career against Marcum; certainly a small sample size, but also nothing indicating a personal nemesis.

"I've had success against Pujols this year," Marcum said. "He did a good job of hitting the ball today. The home run was a good pitch; I went back and looked at it. The same with the double; it was actually off the plate. Give him some credit."

No problem there; Albert's a beast. But contrast what Marcum said with the take of catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who doesn't have the same kind of pride of ownership in pitch location. Lucroy said Marcum needs to get his act together. {YSP:MORE}

"He just elevated and made some mistakes," Lucroy said. "You can't make mistakes with that lineup — you're gonna get beat. We've got pretty good reports on those guys, we've played them a bunch of times, I'm comfortable calling pitches against them. Like I said, he made some mistakes and they made us pay."

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But what about Pujols? He's a machine, if you will.

"No, it's mistakes. It's mistakes," Lucroy said. "Marcum has, we have, had success against Pujols in the past this year. You look at those balls and they're all elevated up in the zone and that's what happens. You elevate to a guy like Pujols and he's gonna make you pay for it. You hang breaking balls, guys are gonna make you pay for it. Especially this lineup. He made mistakes. That's the key word."

Roenicke, conversely, is the "good cop" in this drama. He's sticking with positive reinforcement, dismissing questions post-Tommy John surgery workload is finally getting to Marcum.

"He left the ball up to Pujols in the first inning, tried to come in on him. And beside that, he really wasn't hit that hard," Roenicke said. "We could have made a couple of plays for him. Things would have changed that ballgame a lot."

Ah, so some of it was Nyjer Morgan's fault. Morgan barely missed coming up with pitcher Edwin Jackson's bloop single to center field leading off the third inning, and later couldn't catch up to Pujols' double over his head. Morgan might have hesitated briefly on Jackson's swing, and he might have caught the double if he keeps running instead of jumping at the last moment. But, as Morgan said, "It was a BB, man! You can't catch everything."

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It's also possible that Carlos Gomez makes both plays.

"I'd never point the finger at Nyjer," Marcum said, while kind of pointing the finger at him. "I don't know if he got a bad jump on those balls or what happened. He's trying his best."

In a sense, Marcum is right about being on a run of bad luck. Ryan Topp of Bernie's Crew blogged about Marcum's pitch location and, according to Brooks Baseball, it wasn't terrible. However:

The balls that he gave up hits on weren't exactly mistakes in the middle of the zone. Of course, in a sense it would be better if they were. At least then one could say "he needs to improve his command" and there would be an answer. As it is now, Brewer fans are left to wonder if his stuff is just too hittable at this point for him to be allowed to make another start.

Roenicke, for now, will not switch out Marcum for left-hander Chris Narveson. It's a choice he faces only if the Brewers win at least one game when the series shifts to St. Louis starting Wednesday.

"I'll definitely be out there again. No question, I'm going to be making another start," Marcum said.

Marcum needs it to be a lucky one.

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