Stanton helps Marlins hand Cubs fourth straight loss

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[June 24, 2016]  MIAMI -- The pie masked the pain.
 
 Giancarlo Stanton homered and hit a go-ahead single in the eighth inning to lift the Miami Marlins over the suddenly slumping Chicago Cubs 4-2 on Thursday night at Marlins Park.

Stanton's heroics could not have come soon enough for the proud slugger, who has not nearly played up to his enormous 13-year, $325 million contract yet this season.

Stanton, a career .265 hitter, is batting .216. He has also struck out 87 times in 61 games.

"I feel like I've let my team down for a while now," said Stanton, who got the pie-in-the-face treatment from his teammates while doing a TV interview. "That (go-ahead single) was big, just to help (us) win."

Meanwhile, the Cubs (47-24), who have the best record in baseball, have lost four games in a row -- their longest skid of the season.

Miami (39-34) broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the eighth. Christian Yelich walked, advanced on a wild pitch by reliever Pedro Strop (1-2) and scored on Stanton's two-out, opposite-field single to right. Stanton got his hit on a 3-2 pitch.

"In a situation like that," Stanton said, "I just wanted to calm down and shoot one (through the right side)."

It was Stanton's fourth game-winning RBI of the season and RBI No. 500 for his career.

"He's good," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said when asked about Stanton. "That's not going to last forever -- he's not going to struggle forever.

"The base hit was a really good at-bat. The homers happen, but the base hit in that situation was an exceptional at-bat."

Miami got an extra run in the eighth when J.T. Realmuto doubled to drive in Stanton.

David Phelps, normally Miami's set-up reliever, pitched a scoreless ninth and earned his third save of the year and fourth of his career.

Phelps worked himself into a jam, loading the bases by allowing two singles and a walk. But he struck out pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan swinging and got Ben Zobrist to fly out to center to end the game.

Neither starting pitcher -- Miami's Wei-Yin Chen or Chicago's Jon Lester -- earned a decision. And although Lester's ERA (2.10) is less than half of that of Chen (5.00), the Miami starter matched the Chicago star in hits allowed (five), runs allowed (two) and strikeouts (seven).

Cubs rookie first baseman Wilson Contreras said he was impressed with Chen.

"He only throws 92 (mph), but he gets on you quick," Contreras said. "He's quick to the plate, slide step. He's a smart pitcher. He made his pitches."

Miami reliever Kyle Barraclough (4-2) earned the win by not allowing a run in the eighth after Chen's exit.

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Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) connects for an RBI single during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park. The Marlins won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago scored a cheap run in the fourth. Jason Heyward led off with a line-drive single, reaching third when the ball got past center fielder Marcell Ozuna for a two-base error. Ozuna, lax in his approach, did not get his body in front of the ball, and Chicago's Kris Bryant made Miami pay with a sacrifice fly.

Miami tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth on Stanton's 14th homer of the season. Stanton's blast to left could have been a two-run shot, but -- on the preceding pitch -- Cubs catcher David Ross caught Yelich attempting to steal third.

The teams traded solo homers to left in the sixth and eighth innings, respectively. Ozuna, making up for his previous mistake, gave Miami a 2-1 lead with his team-leading 16th homer of the season. Ross led off the eighth with his sixth homer, tying the score 2-2.

It was the first time in his career that Ross homered to tie the score in the eighth inning or later.

Then came Stanton's heroics and Phelps' high-wire act in the ninth. In the end, though, it was a win for the Marlins, who have played to the level of their opponents all year.

"We seem to have a penchant for big games," Phelps said. "It's exciting. This whole series feels like a playoff series. And if we go where we want to go this season (playoffs), we're going to run into teams like this."

NOTES: Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo, a South Florida native, did not start due to a back injury. ... Cubs rookie CF Albert Almora, a Miami native, made his first start in his hometown. In the stands was his father, Albert Sr., who is battling prostate cancer. ... Cubs C Miguel Montero (knee) sat out. ... Miami SS Adeiny Hechavarria batted leadoff. Miami is 4-1 when he hits first. ... Marlins RHP Bryan Morris (herniated disc) plans to start throwing again in August and hopes to return in September. ... The Marlins have signed 25 of their 39 draft picks ahead of the July15 deadline. Among the unsigned players are their top two picks, both in high school: first-round LHP Braxton Garrett and third-round CF Thomas Jones. Garrett, drafted seventh overall and compared favorably to ex-MLB star Cliff Lee, has a scholarship to Vanderbilt. ... Of the Cubs' 25 active players, 11 are age 26 or younger.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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