CHICAGO, Ill.- Good relief is hard to come by no matter what sport it is, just ask the Indianapolis Colts.
Well, the Chicago Cubs seemed to have found a gem in former VCU standout Sean Marshall, who has been a consistent force out of the bullpen over the past two seasons.
This season has been even more special for the Richmond, Va. native, who will be wrapping up a record-breaking year when the Cubs travel to San Diego to conclude their 2011 campaign.
Earlier this month, Marshall broke the franchise record for holds (30 by Carlos Marmol in 2008) and has extended that mark to 33 after racking up two holds in the club's three-game weekend series in St. Louis.
On the year, the 6-7 left-hander is 6-6 with a 2.28 ERA in 75 innings pitched over the course of a team-leading 77 appearances. He has piled up 77 strikeouts, while allowing just 17 walks and notching a career-high five saves. The former Ram has become one of the National League's premier setup men.
"He's becoming way more than just a situational lefty," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "He's a great eighth-inning guy, he's got great numbers against even some of the toughest right-handed hitters. He's been outstanding for us."
Since 2008, when Marshall started to find steady time in the bullpen, he has compiled a 16-14 record, seven saves and a 2.76 ERA in 212 innings of work.
The last two seasons have been even more impressive for the left-hander, who creates his steady role as a huge reason for his success.
"It's been really nice," Marshall said. "I think everyone realizes that I've had some success in this role and I'm pretty comfortable now. Part of the reason is because I wasn't changing roles like I was in previous seasons. When I was able to settle in and keep a routine and know what I'd have to do, I can keep my arm fresh."
In the past two years, Marshall has made 157 appearances for the Cubs, working a total of 149.2 innings. He has racked up a 13-11 record with six saves and a 2.47 ERA. Even more impressive is his 167 strikeouts compared to just 42 walks, that's nearly a 4-to-1 ratio.
While Cubs fans have had trouble putting faith in anything over the years, Marshall seems to be giving them something they truly can rely on.