Joe Robbins, Getty Images
Carlos Marmol #49 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 3, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds came from behind to win 4-3.
Wild Cubs closer Carlos Marmol helped Cincinnati rally for three runs in the ninth to tie it, and Scott Rolen hit a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning that swept the Reds to a 4-3 victory Thursday and two-game split.
Marmol let a 3-0 lead slip away by walking three of the five batters he faced, allowing Cincinnati to tie it with only one hit in the inning. It was his third blown save in five chances. Marmol has walked 12 batters in 8 2-3 innings.
Rolen won it against Rafael Dolis (1-2), whose wild throw to first on Chris Heisey's sacrifice attempt set up the winning run. Logan Ondrusek (2-0) pitched the 10th.
Marmol's struggles decided the first matchup of starters celebrating birthdays in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Ryan Dempster returned from the disabled list and pitched eight shutout innings on his 35th birthday, putting himself in line for his first victory since Aug. 11. He got the better of Homer Bailey, who was celebrating his 26th birthday.
It didn't matter.
The Cubs closer couldn't hold the 3-0 lead or throw a strike, walking three of the five batters he faced.
Marmol's biggest problem has been wildness, and he never settled in on Thursday afternoon a few hours after saving a 3-1 victory over Cincinnati. He opened the ninth by walking Willie Harris and Joey Votto on nine pitches, and 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 relieved and got a double play that left it tied at 3.
The bad 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'd allowed only three earned runs in three starts this season before hurting his thigh, but the Cubs scored a total of four runs in those games.
The right-hander gave up only three hits, including a single and double by Votto, in eight innings on Thursday. It was the second year in a row that he pitched on his birthday and did well. 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.