Marcum going through a stretch of bad luck
Righty feels like he's making good pitches despite poor results
MILWAUKEE -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has made every attempt to convince critics and fans that Shaun Marcum has pitched better than his recent results might indicate.
As Marcum's struggles have mounted over the past month, it has proven harder for Roenicke to sell this theory. But it appears he has done enough to allow his veteran pitcher to remain convinced that he has simply been a victim of a long string of bad luck.
Marcum was on the wrong end of the destructive mission Albert Pujols completed, as he recorded four extra-base hits and five RBIs in the 12-3 win the Cardinals claimed over the Brewers in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on Monday night.
Still, after allowing at least five runs for the fifth time in a span of six starts, Marcum exited this outing believing that he might have once again fallen victim to the baseball gods.
"I guess I [irritated] the baseball gods or something, because like I said, they hit three balls hard again," Marcum said. "That's just the way it's been going for the last six weeks. There's nothing you can do about it. That's baseball."
The game has proven quite harsh recently to Marcum, who allowed five earned runs and seven hits in four innings Monday. He has posted an 8.18 ERA and allowed opponents to hit .341 with seven home runs in the 33 innings he has totaled in a span of six starts dating back to September.
But after watching St. Louis tie this best-of-seven series with Monday's convincing victory, Roenicke said he would likely still start Marcum in Game 6 if necessary.
"As far as I'm concerned right now, he's pitching again," Roenicke said.
It might be debatable just how many of the seven hits Marcum surrendered in his four-inning outing were hit hard. But there was certainly no reason to debate the magnitude of the damage Pujols created when he drilled the game's 10th pitch into the second deck above the left-field wall for a two-run homer in the first inning.
Two innings later, Pujols drilled a screaming two-run double that eluded Nyjer Morgan's glove and slammed off the center-field wall. With the game less than an hour old, it was hard to imagine the Cards first baseman had recorded just one hit in nine previous at-bats against Marcum.
"He just did a good job of hitting the ball today," Marcum said. "The home run, it was a good pitch. I went back and looked at it. So was the double -- it was actually off the plate. So you have to give him some credit."
By extending his own struggles, Marcum helped Pujols enjoy one of the most dominant performances of his career. The St. Louis slugger ended the game with the home run and an LCS record three doubles.
"Marcum has had good success against Pujols this year, and if you go look at those balls, they're all up in the zone," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "That's what happens -- when you elevate to a guy like Pujols, you're going to pay for it."
Marcum's first-inning trouble began when Jon Jay reached with a one-out bunt single. Things might have proven different for Marcum in the two-run third inning had Morgan not misjudged Cardinals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson's sinking liner, unsuccessful in his attempt to snare it with a diving catch.
"We could have made some plays for him," Roenicke said. "Things would have changed that ballgame a lot."
Three batters later, Pujols took advantage of Jackson's leadoff single by drilling the two-run double that also eluded Morgan's glove as he neared the outfield wall.
"Things could have definitely been different if that ball that Jackson hit was caught," Marcum said. "That's one more out. I'm not going to point the finger at Nyjer. I don't know what happened. I don't know if he misread it or felt it was hit harder. It's just one of those things where it fell in, and then they went on to score from there."
When asked about the balls hit to him in the third inning, Morgan simply said, "I just didn't get to them."
Had Morgan made just one of those plays, there is a chance things might have been a little different for Marcum, who also gave up a run after allowing Yadier Molina to begin the fourth inning with a double.
But while there is a chance misfortune has played a small role in his struggles, it's impossible to say Marcum has simply been a victim of bad luck while allowing five runs or more in five of his past six starts. He had allowed five runs or more in just three of his first 29 starts of the season.
Instead of sending Marcum back to the mound for Game 6, Milwaukee has the option of starting Chris Narveson, who went 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this year.
But in what would be a possible clinch game for one of the two teams, it appears the Brewers are at least currently thinking about giving Marcum one more chance.
"This has been going on for six weeks," Marcum said. "Hopefully, this will turn around soon."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.