Cubs roar back, stun Marlins on walk-off wild pitch
By Carrie Muskat and Joe Frisaro
CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon liked the Cubs' patient approach in the late innings, and, of course, he appreciated the heads-up play by Matt Szczur, who scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch by Marlins closer A.J. Ramos with two outs in the ninth inning. But Maddon made a point of saluting the 41,147 at Wrigley Field after Chicago's 5-4 win over Miami on Wednesday afternoon.
"A big part of that rally at the end of the game is just our fans, purely," Maddon said. "So much energy. Long day for us -- it was a hot day out there, sunshine, we've got to get on the road, all those mental factors. I just want to recognize them."
Trailing, 4-2, in the ninth, Miguel Montero doubled to lead off the inning and advanced on Javier Baez's single. Szczur then pinch-hit and walked to load the bases, and Dexter Fowler followed with a sacrifice fly. One out later, Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked to load the bases again. Ramos then walked Ben Zobrist to tie the game, and he uncorked the wild pitch during Willson Contreras' at-bat. The Marlins had been 53-0 on the season when leading going into the ninth inning.
"It's a tough one, because you fear both guys," Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "You don't really want to get to Zobrist, but Rizzo has been their top guy. He sets up a force for us. It's one of those, you don't really want to get to Zobrist, but you don't really want to let Rizzo beat you either. You take your shot."
It was the second blown save by Ramos this season, and it gave the Cubs a sweep of the three-game series. Christian Yelich went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Jeff Mathis smacked a tie-breaking two-run homer for the Marlins, who are trying to keep pace in the National League Wild Card race.
"I didn't have command of anything," Ramos said. "The fastball was flying out, cutting. Changeup was out of the zone. The slider was hit-and-miss. It was pretty rough."
Cubs starter John Lackey did not get a decision. He struck out eight over seven innings, and also hit two doubles for the first time in his career. Chicago starters now have a 2.73 ERA since the All-Star break, striking out 105 over 118 2/3 innings, and the club has the best record in the Majors at 66-41.
"Fair expectations? We're trying to win a World Series. I didn't come here for a haircut," Lackey said. "I came here for jewelry."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Mathis' timely homer: With a day game after a night game, the Marlins started Mathis behind the plate in place of J.T. Realmuto. The veteran backup is frequently praised by his teammates and staff for the way he handles pitchers and calls a game. Along with masterfully working with Tom Koehler through his six innings, Mathis provided a timely, two-run homer to left off Lackey, his former teammate in their days with the Angels. It was just Mathis' second homer of the season, but the two-run shot in the seventh regained a 3-1 lead for Miami after Chicago tied it in the sixth. More >
Kid stuff: The Cubs had runners at first and third with two outs in the first, but Koehler got rookie Contreras to hit into a fielder's choice and end the inning. Contreras, who misplayed Yelich's RBI double in the first, came through in the sixth. With one out, Rizzo singled, advanced on a wild pitch and a groundout before scoring on Contreras' single to center.
Dee's speed creates early lead: Picked off at a crucial point in Tuesday's 3-2 loss, Dee Gordon used his speed to his advantage in the first inning on Wednesday. After leading off with an infield single, Gordon stole second base, immediately getting into scoring position. With one out, Yelich lined an RBI double that gave Koehler the lead before he threw a pitch.
"I'm trying to help us win, get on, and that's it," Gordon said. "I'm trying to put us in position to win, grind out at-bats. That's all I'm trying to do."
In the third inning, after Gordon bunted for a hit, Lackey began jawing at the Miami second baseman.
"He got mad because I bunted," Gordon said. "I don't know what he wanted me to do. That's my game."
Pitchers who rake: It's been quite a week for Cubs pitchers. Jon Lester had a pinch-hit bunt in the 12th inning Sunday that scored the winning run against the Mariners, and Kyle Hendricks helped himself with an RBI single in his shutout win over the Marlins. It was Lackey's turn Wednesday. He came into the game with a career .101 batting average and only four doubles in 169 at-bats, but he led off the third with a two-bagger and then hit his second of the game with two outs in the fifth. Unfortunately for the Cubs, he was stranded both times.
"[Assistant hitting coach] Eric Hinske helped me a little bit in the cage, tried to change a few things," Lackey said. "Apparently it worked."
"These are no fun, but I think they're part of who we're becoming, and they're going to be something for us to handle and learn from and move on from. Even though it's painful, it's still a game. We've got to move forward from it." -- Mattingly, after being swept in walk-off fashion
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Lackey is the first Cubs pitcher with two doubles in a game since Ismael Valdez did so May 24, 2000. He's also the first with two extra-base hits since Travis Wood hit a double and homer on April 21, 2014.
Getting swept at Chicago marked the first time since June 28-30 that the Marlins have dropped three straight.
ICHIRO COUNTDOWN Ichiro Suzuki has more at-bats against Lackey than any other Major League pitcher (121), but he did not start on Wednesday in the series finale. In the seventh inning, he appeared as a pinch-hitter and lifted a soft popup to short. The 42-year-old went hitless in three pinch-hit appearances in the series, and he is hitless in his past 10 at-bats as he remains at 2,998 in his career. The only player to collect his 3,000th hit at Wrigley Field was Stan Musial, who did so May 13, 1958, off Moe Drabowsky with a pinch-hit double in the sixth. Ichiro is 2-for-20 in his past 12 games.
WHAT'S NEXT Marlins: Off on Thursday, the Marlins open a three-game set at Coors Field against the Rockies on Friday at 8:40 p.m. ET. David Phelps (5-5, 2.65 ERA), who has made 50 relief appearances, will make his first start of the season and 60th of his career.
Cubs: After an off-day Thursday, Jon Lester will open the Cubs' Interleague series against the Athletics in Oakland. Lester is 5-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 14 career starts against the A's. First pitch is 9:05 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.