Giancarlo Stanton finally had reason to display some positive emotion. The slugger, who has slumped most of the season, broke out on Thursday night with a home run, but his greatest satisfaction was a two-out, full-count, RBI single to right field in the eighth in the Marlins' 4-2 win over the Cubs at Marlins Park.
After taking second on the throw home, Stanton slapped his hands in celebration. J.T. Realmuto tacked on an RBI double off Pedro Strop, and Miami claimed the first of four games against the Cubs, who have dropped four straight for the first time this season, and not since their 2015 National League Championship Series with the Mets.
Stanton, who doesn't always let his feeling be shown on the field, felt a sense of relief to break the tie with his game-winning single.
"In a situation like that, that's what I've been able to do [in the past]," the three-time All-Star said. "It's calm down, and make them make a play, which hasn't showed up lately. It was good to get that."
"He's good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Stanton. "[His slump] is not going to last forever, he's not going to struggle forever. The base hit to right was really a good at-bat. The homers happen, but a base hit, that's what you're always looking for and that was an essential at-bat."
Cubs lefty Jon Lester surrendered solo home runs to Stanton (fourth inning) and Marcell Ozuna (sixth) before exiting after 100 pitches. Lester was in line for a loss before David Ross' home run to lead off the eighth pulled the Cubs even at 2.
"He's pretty much been the same cat every time," Maddon said of Lester. "Two homers, what are you going to do? I thought he was outstanding."
With closer A.J. Ramos not available, David Phelps worked a rocky ninth, loading the bases with one out. Phelps also committed a one-out balk, putting runners on second and third. But the right-hander struck out pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan and retired Ben Zobrist on a fly ball to center to end the game.
"It's about making a pitch at that point," Phelps said. "I made some pitches against Coghlan, and at that point, it's just a matter of getting one guy out. That one guy is a pretty good player. I've played against him quite a bit when I was in New York and he was in Tampa."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Stanton/Ozuna go deep: For the second time in four games, the Marlins received a power boost from both Stanton and Ozuna. The two each connected on home runs off Lester, who has given up 10 home runs. In the fourth, Stanton laced an opposite-field homer to right which pulled the Marlins even at 1. And in the sixth, Ozuna crushed a no-doubt shot to left, putting Miami in front. On Monday, the two went back-to-back in a 5-3 loss to the Rockies. Ozuna leads the club with 16 homers, while Stanton now has 14.
According to Statcast™, Stanton's homer projected at 385 feet with an exit velocity of 102.2 mph, which was his second-lowest exit-velocity blast of the season.
"Letting [the ball] get deep and putting backspin to the right side, that's definitely what you need to do," Stanton said. "Not necessarily homers, but, like the hit, too. It's good. It makes the defense stay honest. Makes your at-bats better." More >
Chen's quality start, Barraclough's relief: Miami's bullpen has been overused, and Wei-Yin Chen was tasked with working deep into Thursday's game. The lefty matched his season high by lasting seven innings. Chen struck out seven and didn't walk a batter. It's been a rough go of late for Chen, who was rocked for 2 1/3 innings in his last start, a no-decision against the Rockies. That game caused the bullpen to pick up a lot of innings. Kyle Barraclough replaced Chen after he allowed a homer to Ross to open the eighth. With two outs and runners on first and second, Barraclough struck out Willson Contreras.
"I think the win today, and the fact I could get to the eighth inning, it's because of my teammates," Chen said through his interpreter. "I had great defense behind me. Also, the hitters, they hit pretty well today. This was a team win. Not just about me."
Forever young: Ross, the Cubs' veteran catcher, got Lester off the hook when he led off the eighth with a game-tying home run. Ross also threw out Christian Yelich at third in the fourth prior to Stanton's homer, and was busy positioning the young infield. Ross now has six home runs in 38 games this season -- he hit one in 72 games last year. And he's retiring after this season. It was the first homer of his career to tie the game in the eighth inning or later.
"The big thing is how he handles the staff, how he handles the young guys," Lester said of Ross, 39. "He has a way of being hard on guys but at the same time, it's not like he's talking down to them. Guys respect that. They always know he's going to be honest with them."
50-50: Heyward dropped a single to center that bounced past Ozuna for an error. Heyward reached third on the play and then scored on Bryant's sacrifice fly for his 49th RBI. He needs one more to give the Cubs their first pair of players with 50 RBIs prior to the All-Star break since 2008 (Anthony Rizzo has 54 RBIs).
QUOTABLE "It's too early to be taking anything from beating anybody. We got beaten by the Braves the other days. Their record is not very good. [Thursday] is a game you've got to win. I look at every day as you've got to win a game. It's one game. We know anybody can beat you on any given night. We're capable of beating them. Obviously, they're capable of beating us. It's one game today. We get ready to play tomorrow. That's all." -- Marlins manager Don Mattingly, downplaying one win over the Cubs, who have the best record in baseball
"It's just a little rough patch. There's a reason that the guys who were starting and are injured were starting. We have to hold down the fort until they get back." -- Ross, on the Cubs' struggles More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Marlins had committed just two errors in June, the fewest of any club in the Majors before Ozuna let the ball skip by him on Heyward's single to center to open the fourth inning. The two-base error advanced Zobrist to third, and he scored on Bryant's sacrifice fly.
REPLAY REVIEW In the Marlins fifth, Chris Johnson hit a chopper to third baseman Javier Baez, whose throw to first baseman Contreras was high. Contreras appeared to tag Johnson before he touched the bag but Johnson was called safe. The Cubs challenged the call and after a review, it was overturned.
The Marlins had a review go their way in the sixth, and when they got the call overturned, it wiped out what initially was a remarkable display of concentration by Baez. Realmuto ripped a hard grounder that Baez deflected, causing the ball to go straight up in the air. With his throwing hand, Baez caught the ball and from the ground made a strong throw to first base. Realmuto was called out. But Miami challenged and got the overturn after a review of 62 seconds. Realmuto was credited with a single.
WHAT'S NEXT Cubs:Kyle Hendricks will try to turn around his road record on Friday when he takes the mound in the second game of this four-game series at Marlins Park at 6:10 p.m. CT. Hendricks struck out a career high 12 batters in his last outing against the Pirates at Wrigley, but he is 1-5 with a 4.36 ERA on the road.
Marlins:Tom Koehler (6-6, 3.92 ERA) carries a three-game winning streak into Friday night's 7:10 p.m. ET game against the Cubs. Koehler made one start against the Cubs last year, and collected a victory, giving up one run in six innings.