"The White Sox should win that division by half a dozen games or more, if you want to know the truth," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "They've got everything that's needed. ... Everybody looks at the Cubs -- look at the White Sox. They're a pretty good ballclub."
The White Sox are in first place, even if Cubs fans don't want to acknowledge that.
Derrek Lee went 5-for-5 with three RBIs, his fourth career five-hit game and first since June 1, 2005, against the Dodgers. He'd trade that.
"You'd rather get one hit and a win," Lee said.
Quentin's blast was the fifth homer off Marmol, who gave up three in 59 games last year. He also has been charged with nine runs in 11 innings this month -- he gave up seven in the first two months combined. In his past five outings, he's given up six earned runs in four innings.
"I'm not worried about anything," Piniella said when asked if he was concerned about Marmol. "Our guys played hard and we just fell a little short, and I'm proud of that. Give the White Sox credit. They played a good game."
As Piniella was leaving the interview room at U.S. Cellular Field, he was asked why he isn't worried.
"Why should I be?" Piniella said. "Everybody is prone to have a time that they're going to struggle, whether it's a hitter, whether it's a pitcher, whether it's a relief pitcher. Nobody's perfect."
Marmol (1-3), in fact, feels better now than he did in Tampa Bay on June 19, when he walked two and hit two batters, and all four scored. He walked three in his next appearance against the White Sox at Wrigley Field, but only gave up one run in that outing. Since then, the Cubs have tweaked his delivery, and he's more upright.
"I'm throwing strikes -- that's the point," Marmol said. "I feel good right now. My mechanics are good. I can throw whatever I want to. It was one pitch."
That one pitch can haunt a late-inning reliever. After the game, Cubs closer Kerry Wood pulled the young pitcher aside to talk to him about the at-bat and the 0-2 pitch that Quentin connected on.
"It's the first adversity [Marmol] has had," Wood said. "It's tough when a kid comes up and dominates last year and dominates this year, and then has one or two bad outings and everybody is talking about how he's lost it. That's ridiculous.
"I don't think he wanted a swing or contact on that pitch, he was just trying to set him up for his slider on the next pitch. It went over the plate too much and elevated. It wasn't that bad of a pitch, it was just the wrong side of the plate. He was trying to foul it off and ended up hitting a homer. I think Marmol provided most of the power with his velocity."
"He's a good hitter," Marmol said of Quentin. "He's strong. What can I say? I threw a good fastball, and he got it."
The Cubs got off to a good start, taking a 2-0 lead in the first, as Javier Vazquez was unable to retire any of the first four batters in the game. Lee and Daryle Ward each hit RBI singles that frame. But the White Sox took a 3-2 lead in their half on Jermaine Dye's two-run homer and Joe Crede's RBI double.
Orlando Cabrera hit an RBI double with one out in the second to make it 4-2. The Cubs went ahead, 5-4, in the fourth, when Mike Fontenot doubled and scored two batters later on Mark DeRosa's single. Lee followed with a two-run double. But it was short-lived, as Alexei Ramirez tied the game with a leadoff homer in the fourth off Cubs starter Sean Gallagher.
The late-afternoon shadows and the White Sox relievers proved to be too much in the end. The Cubs, hoping to stay on top of the National League Central while Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Scott Eyre and Reed Johnson heal from injuries, will be glad to finish this series. The next time they could face their crosstown rivals might be October.
"I think they're a great ballclub," DeRosa said of the White Sox. "We knew that in Spring Training when we played them. They don't always bring the big guns up to HoHoKam [Park in Mesa, Ariz.] to face us with the two-hour drive, but when you face the starting nine, you know you have your hands full."
So, no reason for concern?
"No," Lee said.
Are you optimistic?
"Yes," Lee said. "We're good."