Valbuena's homer carries Cubs past Marlins

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Luis Valbuena stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night and one thought on his mind.
"I tried to hit a home run," the Chicago Cubs third baseman said.
Mission accomplished.
The 27-year old Venezuelan, who came in with 20 career home runs in 336 games, picked a heck of a time to drill his 21st, belting a solo shot off Miami Marlins closer Steve Cishek to lift Chicago to a 4-3, come-from-behind victory at Marlins Park.
As he circled the bases with what turned out to be his second game-winning hit of the season and fourth home run of this young season, a smiling Valbuena turned and pointed to the crowd of Cubs supporters behind the team's dugout.
"I pointed, 'Yeah!' to the people because I was so happy," Valbuena said.
The Marlins didn't make the save opportunity easy on Carlos Marmol, opening the ninth inning by putting runners on first and second after a walk to Donovan Solano and a pinch single to left by Austin Kearns. But when 35-year-old veteran Juan Pierre slapped a nubber right in front of Cubs catcher Welington Castillo on an attempted sacrifice bunt, fortunes changed.
Castillo threw to third for the force on Solano.
"Put this one on me," said Pierre, who played in his 1,900th career game Thursday night. "Pitching did well, defense. Everything went well except me getting the bunt down and giving us an opportunity to win that game."
Placido Polanco followed by flying out to center -- an out that likely would have served as the game-tying sacrifice fly if the bunt had been successful. Marmol then ended the game by striking out Giancarlo Stanton, who swung and missed at two ugly pitches, including one in the dirt for strike three. It Marmol was second save in four opportunities this season.
"He pitches great when he doesn't know he's the closer," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Marmol, who would have been yanked for Kameron Loe in case the Marlins loaded the bases.
Shawn Camp (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Cubs.
Cishek (1-3) got the loss after Valbuena smacked the first pitch he saw into the Marlins bullpen in right field. Cishek's ERA is now 5.40.
"I think he's throwing all right," Marlins manager Redmond said. "It would be nice to use your closer in save situations instead of to get you to the bottom of the ninth. It seems like we've only had him in a couple of games to get a save."
Sporting the best ERA for a winless pitcher with at least four starts (1.90) and the worst run support per nine innings in the game (0.38) coming in, Marlins starter Kevin Slowey was handed a 3-1 lead in the second inning.
However, little by little, the Cubs -- who came in hitting a major-league-worst .140 (20-for-143) with runners in scoring position, including .103 (4-for-39) during their 1-5 road trip -- chipped away and ruined Slowey's bid for his first major league win since September 2010.
Nate Schierholtz played the role of spoiler. He doubled and scored in the fourth on Castillo's double to left, then blasted a 345-foot, solo home run off the right field foul pole in the sixth to tie the score at 3.
Entering 1-6 with a 6.69 ERA against Miami in his career, Cubs starter Edwin Jackson continued his struggles against the Marlins early. He gave up four hits, three walks and threw 49 pitches over the first two innings.
He recovered nicely, though, earning a no-decision by giving up just one hit over his next four innings. Jackson's final pitching line: six innings, five hits, three earned runs, four walks and four strikeouts.
"It was just a matter of trying to battle back," Jackson said. "When your team goes down and scores first and then you give up a run, as a starter, you just have to go battle.
"We did that tonight. I battled. The team battled, and that was a great win for us."
NOTES: After being scratched from his Wednesday rehab start with Double-A Tennessee because of what the Cubs called a "dead arm," right-hander Matt Garza is scheduled to play long-toss Friday. The scratch was a setback in Garza's return from a strained left lat that has sidelined him since February. ... Miami catcher Jeff Mathis -- out since early in spring training with a fractured right clavicle -- is hoping to participate in his first rehab assignment on Wednesday, Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. ... The Marlins claimed 27-year-old left-hander Duane Below off waivers from the Detroit Tigers and optioned him to Triple-A New Orleans. Below threw 46 1/3 innings in 27 games with one start for the Tigers last year. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder was 1-2 with a 2.10 ERA in four starts at Triple-A this season. In 25 2/3 innings, he has 15 strikeouts and four walks.

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