It doesn't matter where Kevin Gregg blows a save, it just matters that he did.
Dan Uggla and Cody Ross hit back-to-back home runs off their former teammate with one out in the ninth inning Sunday to lift the Marlins to a 3-2 victory over the Cubs and spoil Gregg's return to the Sunshine State.
"It wasn't pretty," Lou Piniella said. "The thing finished quick. Two pitches, two home runs. What are you going to do?"
It's two consecutive blown saves for Gregg, too. The right-hander missed a chance on Saturday, yet picked up the win as the Cubs rallied in the 10th for a 9-8 win. They didn't get another at-bat this time.
"I don't think it matters where I'm at," said Gregg, who had saved 61 games in two seasons in Florida before being dealt to the Cubs this past offseason. "I don't want to perform like that. I think I paid for every ball I threw over the plate and every one I didn't throw over the plate."
Chicago had taken a 2-1 lead on Jake Fox's homer leading off the ninth off Brendan Donnelly (2-0). The rookie drove the first pitch into the left-field seats for his eighth homer, and the Cubs appeared poised to leap-frog ahead into first in the National League Central after St. Louis lost, 2-0, to Houston.
Gregg entered in the ninth, and got pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez to pop out. He then fell behind 3-1 to Uggla, who launched a slider to left for his 19th homer to tie the game. Ross, who had homered in the seventh to make it 1-1, then connected on Gregg's next pitch, a fastball, and the Marlins could celebrate.
"I can't remember the last time I hit a fastball like that," Ross said. "It was a really good pitch that he made, and I just kind of threw my hands at it. It's not a pitch I'm trying to hit out of the yard. I didn't even get a good piece of wood on it, but was able to get it up in the air and today the ball was flying a little bit. It was just enough."
"I've seen Gregg over the last few years and he's been as dominant as anybody," Uggla said. "He's got great stuff. I saw a ton of sliders this whole homestand and they got me, but everything just kind of went right for me on that one swing."
Everything went wrong for Gregg.
"It was two pitches," Gregg said. "Twenty-five guys put together a great effort and two pitches, we walk out of here losing."
Knowing the Marlins hitters didn't seem to help him.
"I'm going to pitch to my strengths -- I don't think it matters," Gregg said. "I've seen Uggla hit a lot and he usually doesn't hit sliders all that well. It's part of the game."
It spoiled his return. Gregg had enjoyed the reunion with his former teammates, but they may not be getting a card at the holidays.
"You don't want it [to happen in Florida], but it doesn't matter that it's here," Gregg said. "I hate losing, that's the biggest thing. It could be any ballpark and I don't want it to be like that out there."
Ryan Dempster can relate.
"There aren't too many who don't go through it," said Dempster, who was the Cubs closer for three seasons and endured the ups and downs of the job. "Kevin's such a professional, he's prepared every day and he'll be one of the first guys there tomorrow itching to get the ball back."
Will Gregg get the chance again? Piniella said he had no plans to change his closer.
"Why should I?" Piniella said.
Dempster started, and showed that he apparently just needed a little more time. The right-hander was roughed up in his first start off the disabled list, but on Sunday, gave up three hits over six scoreless innings. In his second start since being sidelined with a broken right big toe, he struck out four and walked four.
"It was better," he said. "I didn't get myself in a whole lot of trouble today. I tried to execute as many pitches as possible. It's a tough one -- we were right there and had a chance to win it. They fight to the end, they always have, and they're a tough team to play especially down here."
Piniella gave a few of the regulars a breather. Sam Fuld, starting in center, walked to lead off the Chicago third, reached third on Ryan Theriot's single, and scored on Derrek Lee's single for his 70th RBI of the season in his 90th game. Last year, Lee had 54 RBIs in 90 games. Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco settled down and retired 14 straight after Lee's hit, striking out eight in the game.
Fox was happy to see Nolasco finally exit.
"He threw me some great pitches today and there was only one that I felt I could put a good swing on," he said. "He had his best stuff working today, and I was happy to see him out of the game."
Ross tied the game with his 16th homer with one out in the Marlins seventh off Aaron Heilman, launching a pitch to straightaway center, well beyond the reach of Fuld.
Then came the ninth. Fox was in line to be the hero.
"It would've been a lot of fun -- it would've been the first time I'd be in that position," Fox said. "My heart goes out for Kevin. He's got some great stuff. I've got all the confidence he'll come right back where he needs to be."
Gregg feels the same.
"Unfortunately, that's part of the game," Gregg said. "You're going to mess up every now and then. It was 10, 11, nine something straight [saves] prior to this. It was two on the wrong side here. Now let's get back on the right side."