Marmol walked two guys and hit another batter before he was pulled, and the Cubs were handed another tough loss when the Cincinnati Reds scored four times in the eighth inning for a 6-4 victory on Saturday.
"We have so many games where we're winning in the sixth, seventh inning and we give it to the other team," Cubs star Alfonso Soriano said. "I think that's the difference. ... A game like this we can't give it away."
Soriano hit a pair of two-run homers and Jeff Samardzija tossed six effective innings after Shin-Soo Choo homered on the first pitch of the game. But the right-hander remains winless in six starts since opening day thanks to another bout of control problems for Marmol.
"It's just one of those things," Samardzija said. "I've had my own fair share of struggles with the zone myself, you just hope he keeps working and keeps doing his thing and when he's in the zone he's unhittable, he needs to know that too, his stuff is unhittable."
Cincinnati had just one hit in the decisive rally, but that was all it needed to secure its first winning road series of the season. The Reds held on for a 6-5 victory in the opener on Friday when Darwin Barney struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.
"You've got to take what they're giving you, and Marmol had a little tough time out there," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.
James Russell got three outs before Marmol entered with a 4-2 lead. It was Marmol's 453rd relief appearance with the Cubs, snapping a tie with Lee Smith for the franchise record.
He marked the occasion by walking Zack Cozart on four pitches, walking Joey Votto on a full count and hitting Brandon Phillips to load the bases with no outs. That was enough for manager Dale Sveum, who replaced Marmol with Hector Rondon. The crowd of 36,455 showered Marmol (2-2) with boos as he made his way to the dugout.
"We have to get him fixed because he's got to pitch," Sveum said.
Jay Bruce hit an RBI single and Todd Frazier followed with a sacrifice fly to right, tying it at 4. After Xavier Paul was walked intentionally, pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan walked to force home a run and Devin Mesoraco, another pinch hitter, sent another fly ball into right field to give the Reds a 6-4 lead.
"Nice team effort," Frazier said. "Got nine guys up that inning and we manufactured runs. It wasn't a big one there."
Logan Ondrusek (2-0) worked the seventh, Jonathan Broxton pitched the eighth and Aroldis Chapman finished for his seventh save. Chapman worked around a one-out walk by Soriano one day after he gave up three runs in a non-save opportunity.
Marmol began the year in the closer's role, but was demoted after he blew a save opportunity at Atlanta on April 6. He also was in and out of the closer's spot last season.
He had put together 10 consecutive scoreless appearances before the bad outing against Cincinnati.
"I feel very good and that's it," said Marmol, who has walked 12 and allowed 11 hits in 11 2-3 innings this season. "I didn't throw strikes today. That's what happened."
The Cubs wasted a solid start by Samardzija, who settled down after Choo sent a drive over the left-field wall for his seventh career leadoff homer. He allowed two runs, one earned, and four hits while throwing a season-high 111 pitches.
Cozart had an RBI single in the third for Cincinnati, but Samardzija retired 11 of his final 13 batters.
Reds starter Tony Cingrani struggled against the heart of the Cubs' order. The left-hander hit Anthony Rizzo in the first and Soriano followed with a long drive to left. Rizzo doubled off the wall in center in the third and Soriano hit another shot to left for career homer No. 375.
Cingrani, a native of nearby Evergreen Park, allowed three hits in six innings. He struck out five and walked one.
NOTES: Barney went 0 for 3 and is hitless in his last 12 at-bats. "He's always working and trying," Sveum said, "but I think he needs to try to stick with one thing and go with that, a lot of changing every single day." ... Cubs RHP Edwin Jackson (0-4, 6.27 ERA) faces Mat Latos (2-0, 1.83) in the series finale on Sunday. Latos enters with a 17-inning scoreless streak. ... Cubs 3B Ian Stewart (strained left quadriceps) was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Friday and optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Stewart was already at Iowa on a rehab stint.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap