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Harden fans 11, but Cubs fall late

Harden fans 11, but Cubs fall late

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MIAMI -- The Cubs had scored 12 runs in each of their past two games. On Friday, they mustered two. Rich Harden struck out 11, matching a career high. He didn't get a decision. And Carlos Marmol, who usually mows batters down, walked the first two he faced. He ended up with the loss.

The Florida Marlins beat the Cubs, 5-2, thanks to an eighth-inning rally as John Baker hit a tiebreaking RBI single and pinch-hitter Wes Helms followed with a two-run double, all with two outs.

With the loss, the Cubs finished the month 18-9, the first time in 11 years they've collected 18 wins in July. Heading into August one year ago, the Cubs were 65-44 and had a five-game lead in the National League Central following a sweep in Milwaukee. They are 54-47, and dropped a half-game back in the National League Central, as St. Louis beat Houston, 4-3.

"It was a good month and we played good ball," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We've got two big months ahead of us, starting with the nine games we have left on this road trip."

Friday's game was tied at 2 in the eighth when Marmol (2-2) walked Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla. Jeremy Hermida bunted, and Marmol fielded the ball and got Cantu at third. One out later, Baker singled to right to break the tie. Marmol then loaded the bases when he hit pinch-hitter Ross Gload and was pulled for Sean Marshall, who served up Helms' double.

"He's walked a lot of people this year," Piniella said, "but because he's so talented, he's able to get away with it most of the time. Sooner or later, it comes back to haunt you, and it did tonight."

Marmol had been on a good roll, and came into the game with an 8 1/3-inning scoreless streak. He leads the Majors with 23 holds.

"I tried to make a play out there," he said of the play at third. "It was a good play, but I couldn't get out of the inning. I made one pitch, one mistake."

Can he figure out the inconsistencies?

"I walked two guys," he said. "It was a bad day, that's all. Got to get them tomorrow."

Harden will have to wait five days. He tied a career high with 11 strikeouts, doing so for the third time. Harden also struck out 11 on June 26, 2008, against Philadelphia, and Aug. 24, 2008, against Washington. He won both of those games.

"It was a strange game," Harden said. "I felt like I threw the ball well, a little inconsistent. It was either swing and miss or foul ball or foul them off. It was a ton of pitches."

It was 99, to be exact, and the Cubs pulled him after five innings.

"Any time I usually get that number, you end up throwing a ton of pitches and I can't go deep in the game," he said. "I need to throw something to get some early contact and early outs."

"He's going to get strikeouts," Piniella said. "When you strike people out, you're going to throw more pitches than guys who get first- or second-pitch outs. He threw 100 pitches in five innings."

Which means the bullpen has to pick up the slack. Lefty reliever John Grabow, acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday in a five-player deal, made his Cubs debut in the sixth and was in line for the win if Chicago had continued its rally in the seventh. But Dan Meyer struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Baker with two on to end the inning.

Marlins starter Chris Volstad helped himself with two outs in the second when he hit an RBI double off a 93-mph fastball -- "Give him credit for that," Harden said -- and drove in Hermida, who had singled. Cantu made it 2-0 with his 11th home run, connecting on a 3-1 changeup with two outs in the third.

The Cubs tied the game in the seventh. With one out, Aramis Ramirez blooped a single to shallow right, and one out later, Jake Fox smacked his seventh homer, driving the first pitch into the seats in left.

"During the course of the game, the first seven innings, you looked up and had six, seven guys on base and we were not able to add on runs," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "You think, 'This may come back and haunt us.' It did a little bit, because you put Volstad in position with a two-run lead against that offense, which is pretty good. With one mistake, it's a tie ballgame."

Piniella has been trying to figure out the Cubs' offense most of the season. How can they score 12 runs in back-to-back games at home, then barely muster two?

"Different team, different stadium," Piniella said.

Different tastes, too, as far as the Marlins' marketing people go. At one point in the game, they trotted a goat onto the field. On the video scoreboard, there was a between-innings segment when Cubs logos were burned. OK, it's been 101 years since they've won a World Series. The Cubs don't need to be reminded.

"It's tasteless," Piniella said. "This place here, they always have some gimmick that basically doesn't make any sense. I don't know who dreams of these things.

"When they come to Chicago, we don't have fried marlin or anything."

Maybe they will next time.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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