Jason Marquis’ impressive performance in his Cubs debut was marred by a bullpen meltdown in which a one-run Cubs lead quickly turned into a three-run deficit, from which the Cubs never recovered, losing 5-2 to the hometown Cincinnati Reds.

The LaTroy Hawkins-like bullpen performance began in the seventh with reliever Bob Howry giving up a run-scoring single to Jeff Conine, then a walk to Ryan Freel. Howry was pulled for Will Ohman, who threw a wild pitch with Adam Dunn at the plate. Catcher Michael Barrett was charged with a passed ball, allowing Conine to score from third and giving the Reds the lead.

Scott Hatteberg added to the Reds’ run total in the eighth, hitting a two-run homer off Scott Eyre.

$136 million man Alfonso Soriano continued his mediocre performance as the newest member of the Cubs, going 1-for-4 at the plate, hitting a paltry .231 on the young season. The Cubs leadoff man also displayed the kind of ineptitude on the bases Cubs fans are used to, getting picked off first after his only hit of the day.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella was visibly upset after seeing his bullpen blow a lead and the game in which his starting pitcher only allowed one run in six innings of work.

“I really wanted to lose my temper today,” said a perturbed Piniella. “As soon as I get a refill on my nitroglycerine pills, I’ll let them have it.”

Number of the Game: 2006
Reminding Cubs fans everywhere that it may be a new year, but it’s still last year’s bullpen.

heckler editorial staff