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Cubs hang on for third win in a row

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum called it an "unbelievable" play.

Shortstop Starlin Castro, the man who authored the defensive gem, said we might still be playing had that ball gotten through him.

But it didn't, and that's a big reason why the Cubs now have a modest three-game win streak after a 3-2 victory over the Miami Marlins on Saturday night.

The Cubs were holding a slim 3-2 lead in the eighth when the Marlins got a leadoff infield single by Juan Pierre and a two-out walk by Giancarlo Stanton.

With two out, Austin Kearns hit a grounder to the left of Castro, who dived and pitched the ball from his belly to second baseman Darwin Barney. Although Barney stretched to grab the throw, it appeared that Stanton may have been safe.

"It was bang-bang," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He could probably have called it one way or the other. It was a game-saving play, and those are the breaks you get when you are going good and the ones you don't when you aren't."

The Cubs, of course, thought the play was called correctly, but neither side would argue the importance of that out.

"When I saw the ball, I tried to catch it because, with Pierre on second base, I knew he was going to score anyway," Castro said of what would have happened had he not made the play. "I didn't grab it (too) good with my hand, so I tried to push it with my body."

It worked, and now the Cubs (9-14), who are in last place in the National League Central, will go for the four-game sweep on Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Gregg got his team-high third save of the season and his second in two nights.

The Marlins, meanwhile, continue to struggle. They have the worst record in the major leagues at 5-19 and the worst home record (2-10) as well.

Playing before an announced crowd of 27,519 at Marlins Park -- Miami's second-largest home crowd of the year -- the Cubs started their winning rally in the seventh with a leadoff single to right by Wellington Castillo.

With two outs, the Marlins lifted starter Alex Sanabia. But reliever Mike Dunn walked pinch-hitter Julio Borbon and gave up David DeJesus' ground-ball single up the middle, snapping a 2-2 tie.

Dunn said DeJesus hit a fastball down and away.

"I threw some good sliders that he didn't bite on," Dunn said. "Sanabia pitched his butt off tonight. The team battled the whole game. My job is to go in there and get two lefties in a row, and I walked the first guy and gave up the hit, which happened to be the game-winning run.

"It's on me. But this team is way better than the record we have right now. We're in 95 percent of these games. It's unbelievable how we're finding ways (to lose)."

The victory went to starter Travis Wood (2-1), who allowed just hits, one walk and two runs in six innings. His ERA is 2.25.

The loss went to Sanabia (2-3), who pitched reasonably well, allowing six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. After giving up two early runs, he pitched four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the seventh.

Entering Saturday, the Marlins had been out-homered at home 11-2. But that was not the case early in the game as the Marlins rallied to tie the score twice, each on home runs.

The Cubs, who scored after three batters had taken their swings in the first inning on Friday, got on the board even quicker. DeJesus led off with a double to the right-field corner and advanced to third when Stanton bobbled the ball. DeJesus then scored on Sanabia's wild pitch.

Stanton made up for his error by blasting his long-awaited first homer of the season. Stanton, who hit 37 bombs last season, got a 3-and-1 pitch and slugged it 472 feet, over the scoreboard in left field.

"I guess if you are going to give one up, you don't want to give up any cheapies," Sveum said. "That's as far as I've seen a ball hit. As strong as he is and getting a 3-1 fastball ... "

Told the shot measured 472 feet, Sveum said, "I think that's a little bit short."

The Cubs went back in front 2-1 in the second. Leadoff batter Nate Schierholtz hit an opposite-field double to the corner in left and scored on a single by Luis Valbuena, who hit a sharp liner just over Sanabia's head.

Miguel Olivo tied the score 2-2 in the bottom of the second, lifting a 398-foot homer to left. It was his second homer of the season and just the ninth for the Marlins.

"Olivo hit a decent little change-up, down and over the plate," Sveum said. "Other than that, Travis pitched really well.

"Our bullpen has been really good this whole road trip. Our defense has been coming up, DeJesus stayed in there against a lefty, and it was a well-played game all the way around."

NOTES: After Friday's game, the Marlins were last in the majors in batting average (.222) and runs scored (59). ... Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs' hero on Friday with a pair of two-run homers, had been in a 1-for-20 slump before the game. ... Entering Saturday, the Marlins had to use their bullpen for 78 1/3 innings, which was the sixth-highest work rate in the majors. ... The Cubs set a franchise record by seeing 19 of their first 22 games decided by three runs or fewer.
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