The lip-reading version of the conversation was almost as loud as the in-person version must have been.
``I told him he had to throw strikes. If not I had to get somebody else in the ballgame,’’ manager Lou Piniella said of tonight’s fourth-inning talk on the mound with Jason Marquis that ended with something like, ``And you better [expletive] do it.’’
Whether the message sunk in for any extended period, the struggling Marquis walked only one more batter and got six more outs during an otherwise ugly five-inning start against San Diego filled with walks and lapses that included a throwing error and an inexplicable third-inning balk.
``How do you balk with the pitcher on first base?’’ A baffled Piniella said after the game. ``We’re not holding him on.’’
Certainly, that’s the kind of season it’s been for Marquis (3-3, 5.02) so far – if not the kind of season it’s been for the Cubs, who out-hit the starter’s problems for a 9-6 win over the Padres.
It gave the Cubs their first road series win since beating the Pirates in their first road series of the season and extended their overall winning streak to nine games – but none of that before the Cubs needed another six-man effort from the bullpen.
That included an impressive two-batter escape job by Bob Howry who entered with the bases loaded in the eighth, and a two-strikeout ninth inning for Kerry Wood, who earned his 16th save – neither of whom Piniella wanted to use in the game.
Most of which falls back on Marquis, who managed to get his second win in his past eight starts despite himself.
Piniella, who talked at length before the game about how little depth he has with his starting rotation, has few options but to run Marquis out there again in five days and said he plans no changes to his starting staff at this point – beyond allowing them to go deeper into games the next time through the rotation.
Which might leave his best option being the occasional four-letter conversation on the mound when needed.
``It was one-sided,’’ Marquis said of the fourth-inning chat. ``Obviously, he had some productive words. No hard feelings. He made great points out there. You just listen and take some constructive criticism. He sees something and wants to let you know, and it obviously helped out.’’
How Piniella sees his options at this point next week might have a lot to do with how well Marquis can [expletive] do it next time out.