Not even a game in Florida could stop the Chicago Cubs’ surge.
After a thrilling comeback victory in their series opener, the NL Central-leading Cubs look to win their 10th straight road game as they continue their set against the Marlins Saturday.
Chicago (75-47) was stumbling on the road as of July 22, as it was season-worst 21-30 away from Wrigley Field, but it hasn’t lost away from Chicago’s North Side since.
The Cubs have been winning with relative ease during their road winning streak—their longest since reeling off 12 straight on the road in 1945—but that was not the case Friday.
They Cubs trailed by two runs with two outs in the ninth at Florida (63-60), before Daryle Ward hit a pinch-hit, three-run homer to lift Chicago to a 6-5 win. The Cubs have won 15 of 18 overall, and moved 5 1/2 games over second-place Milwaukee.
“I like the way these kids get after it for nine innings,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “There’s a lot of confidence in this locker room.”
Chicago now looks to build off its first victory in Florida since July 10, 2005. The Cubs had lost six straight games at Dolphin Stadium, and were also swept in a three-game series at Tampa Bay June 17-19.
“I’m happy for the team. This has been a difficult place for us,” said Carlos Zambrano, who was in line for the loss Friday before Ward bailed him out.
The Cubs have scored the most runs in the NL (662), and their high-powered offense has been carrying them during their road winning streak. They have scored 76 runs in their last nine road games after plating 29 in their previous nine away from Wrigley.
On Friday, Mark DeRosa hit a two-run homer and scored three times, and is batting .419 (13-for-31) with three home runs, 15 RBIs and 11 runs in his last nine games.
After sweeping a day-night doubleheader in Atlanta on Wednesday, the Cubs needed to shuffle their starting rotation, so Sean Marshall (2-2, 3.55 ERA) is scheduled to come out of the bullpen and make a spot start Saturday.
Marshall, who made 19 starts last season, is 1-2 with a 4.08 ERA in three this season. In his last start on July 6, the left-hander allowed one run and six hits in six innings of a 7-1 win over St. Louis.
Marshall has thrown six scoreless innings over his last four relief outings since giving up one run and one hit with five strikeouts in three innings against the Marlins on July 26. He is 1-2 with a 4.86 ERA in three career starts versus Florida.
The Marlins have lost three straight and six of eight to drop 3 1/2 games back of the NL East-leading New York Mets. Florida has not lost four consecutive games since June 22-26.
On Friday, Jorge Cantu broke a 1-all tie in the third with a three-run homer, his 21st home run of the year. He is batting .320 (16-for-50) during a 12-game hitting streak at Dolphin Stadium.
Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 4.08) makes his fourth start of the season and first against the Cubs when he takes the hill Saturday.
Sanchez missed more than a year after shoulder surgery, and is coming off his best outing since his return. The right-hander gave up three runs and six hits and also matched a career high with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on Monday.
“I felt this was my best start since I’ve been back,” Sanchez said. “I felt good.”
Sanchez looks to build off that outing at Dolphin Stadium, where he has been at his best. He is 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two home games this season, and 9-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 12 career starts at Dolphin Stadium.