CINCINNATI – Carlos Marmol got a little wild again, losing a three-run lead in the ninth. He might have lost his closer job as well.
The Cincinnati Reds scored three runs in the ninth off Marmol to tie it, and Scott Rolen hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning for a 4-3 victory and a split of their two-game series.
The Reds needed a lot of help to pull it out, and got it from a reliever having trouble throwing strikes. Marmol walked three of the five batters he faced, one with the bases loaded.
"You have a game like that — I'm embarrassed right now," Marmol said.
Marmol has blown three of his five save chances, walking 12 in 8 2-3 innings. Manager Dale Sveum said after the game that he'll consider moving him out of the closer's role.
"You've got to throw strikes, and you have to throw strikes with your fastball," Sveum said. "Throwing 3-0 sliders with a 3-0 lead is unacceptable. A two-run home run won't cost you the game. If you're closing games, you have to throw strikes. We've talked about this.
"I can't lie to you. I've thought about changing roles. I've thought of it now."
Sveum said he would probably use left-hander James Russell or righty Rafael Dolis in the ninth if he made a change.
"My options are Russell, Dolis.," Sveum said. "That's about it. If you have to go with a change, you use matchups. It depends on what is happening in that ninth inning."
Marmol had 34 saves in 44 chances last season. He said he'd like to remain the closer, but would accept a role change.
"He's going to decide what to do," Marmol said. "I agree with that."
Marmol spoiled a big moment for Ryan Dempster, who returned from the disabled list and pitched eight shutout innings on his 35th birthday. He allowed only three hits and was in line to get his first win since Aug. 11.
Dempster got the better of Homer Bailey, who turned 26th on Thursday. It was the first time in major league history that both starters were celebrating a birthday, according to information provided by the Reds, citing the Elias Sports Bureau.
Both pitchers signed baseballs for the Hall of Fame.
"That's something neat," Dempster said.
The Reds stood at the plate and watched Marmol self-destruct in the ninth. He walked Willie Harris and Joey Votto on nine pitches to open the inning. An error by Ian Stewart — the third baseman rushed trying to turn a double play — let in a run.
Jay Bruce singled to load the bases, and Marmol walked Ryan Ludwick to force in a run that made it 3-2 and ended the closer's outing. Dolis (1-2) relieved and got a double play that left it tied at 3.
Marmol threw 18 pitches, only six of them strikes.
"Sometimes he's throwing strikes, and then he's practically unhittable," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "The key is to swing at strikes and make him throw balls. We don't have a whole lot of guys who hit him well."
Another error helped the Reds win it. Zack Cozart singled in the 10th off Dolis, who then threw wildly to first base on Chris Heisey's sacrifice attempt. Rolen followed with his sacrifice fly to deep right field. Logan Ondrusek (2-0) pitched the 10th.
The bad ninth inning spoiled Chicago's best power display of the season. Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair and Geovany Soto hit homers off Bailey, who lasted six innings.
LaHair has provided the bulk of the Cubs' power this season, hitting seven of their 14 homers. Chicago hit only nine in April, fewest in the majors, but had five in the two games at Great American Ball Park — all of them solo shots.
Chicago now has homered in a season-high four consecutive games.
Dempster's long winless streak — now 13 games — is partly due to a lack of support. He lowered his ERA to 0.95 on with the eight shutout innings.
It was the second year in a row that he pitched well on his birthday and failed to get a win. Last year, he allowed only one run over seven innings and got a no-decision in a 4-1 win over the Dodgers.
The Cubs also activated reliever Kerry Wood off the disabled list before the game. He'd been sidelined with fatigue in his pitching shoulder.
NOTES: LHP Paul Maholm will start Friday against LA. He's 0-5 in eight career starts against the Dodgers with a 5.33 ERA. ... Johnny Cueto starts Cincinnati's series in Pittsburgh on Friday. He's 10-3 career against the Pirates, including 6-1 in eight games at PNC Park. ... The Cubs optioned starter Randy Wells and reliever John Maine to Triple-A Iowa. ... LaHair has hit safely in his last nine games and reached base safely in 21 consecutive games. ... Reds INF Miguel Cairo, out since April 17 with a strained left hamstring, started a rehab stint with Class A Dayton.