Marlins elude sweep with late mojo

Marlins elude sweep with late mojo

CHICAGO -- In need of some relief, the Marlins got a big boost by the bullpen, especially rookie Ricky Nolasco and veteran Matt Herges.

And a struggling offense got some punch and good fortune from pinch-hitter Wes Helms.

Nolasco struck out four in two scoreless innings, while Herges recorded a key strikeout with two on in the eighth inning. Combining the pitching with Helms' two-run, pinch-hit double with the bases loaded, the Marlins were able to prevail, 7-5, against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The much-needed victory snapped a three-game losing streak and ended a topsy-turvy road trip at 3-5.

"It's real big, especially with a young team like this, you can just see the atmosphere in the clubhouse when they win," said Helms, who had some good fortune when right fielder John Mabry lost his fly ball in the sun. "Everybody is so happy. When you lose with a young team, it seems like guys get down a little more. We try to help out with that the best way we can."

There was some irony in how the Marlins were able to take the series finale.

Nolasco, a star prospect for the Cubs, was dealt to the Marlins last December for Juan Pierre. The right-hander turned in his finest performance of the season, retiring six of the seven batters he faced. The victory was his first as a big leaguer.

And in the ninth inning, former Cubs closer Joe Borowski collected his third save. While Borowski issued one walk, he struck out Pierre for the final out.

"You don't know how bad I was hoping to pitch in the series," Borowski said. "I spent five great years here. I have no ill feelings with anything here. I got along great with everybody. You always want to pitch against guys you played with."

In reflecting on a road trip where the Marlins blew some late-inning leads, Borowski said with some better fortune, it could have been a much better away swing.

"We could have easily gone about 6-2 on this road trip," Borowski said. "You can get frustrated, but at least we won today."

Entering to a mixture of boos and cheers, Borowski was so locked in on finishing up the ninth inning, he almost tossed the baseball into the stands. Instead, he remembered to keep the ball to present to Nolasco.

"At least he got that one," Borowski said of giving Nolasco the game ball. "The first save I ever got, somebody threw the ball away. I think it was an out at first or something like that. Coming off the field, it's in the stands. You remember little things like that."

A former starter, Nolasco is adjusting to a reliever role. Wednesday was his finest outing, and it happened to be against the team that traded him.

"The way I'm just going to take it is everything happens for a reason," said Nolasco, who will give the ball to his mother. "I went out there, trying to get some outs. It was a tight game."

With the score tied at 3 in the eighth inning, the Marlins at last had some breaks go their way. They loaded the bases on Scott Williamson walks. A walk to Josh Willingham opened the inning, and with speedy pinch-runner Eric Reed replacing Willingham, Williamson made a couple of tosses to first. On one of them, he felt he picked Reed off. However, first base umpire Bruce Froemming immediately called a balk.

After loading the bases, Helms pinch-hit for Matt Treanor. Looking for something to drive, creating a sacrifice fly, Helms took the ball the other way. Mabry, who happened to enter moments before as part of a double-switch, got a late jump as he lost the ball in the sun. The ball dropped for a double. The Marlins went up, 6-3, on pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo's sacrifice fly.

The Cubs roared back in the eighth with two runs, both charged to Franklyn German, who walked two and gave up a two-run single to Matt Murton. Herges inherited two on and two outs, and struck out Jerry Hairston Jr.

"I made a pitch this time," said Herges, who gave up two runs in the eighth inning of Monday's disheartening 6-3 loss. "The other day I didn't. That made up for the last time."

The Marlins on Monday carried a 3-0 lead into the eighth, but the bullpen wasn't able to preserve the win.

"It's an interesting game," manager Joe Girardi said. "You know he had a tough day on Monday, and he came in today and did a stellar performance. That's baseball. It could be a forgiving game, and a humbling game. You never know when you're going to be called upon again."

In the ninth inning, the Marlins tacked on an insurance run when Mike Jacobs singled to center, scoring Miguel Cabrera from second.

Making his third start, rookie Scott Olsen gave up three runs, with two earned, in five innings. The left-hander, who grew up a Cubs fan in Crystal Lake, Ill., allowed just one hit. He was hurt by three walks and a hit batter, and he wasn't involved in the decision.

"I pitched not as well as I could have," Olsen said. "I'm incredibly happy that we won. We definitely needed a win. We don't have to spend two days thinking about it. But myself, I could have done a lot better."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.