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MIAMI (AP) — The Chicago Cubs have languished offensively of late, but they inspired some optimism with a better showing their last time out.

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They’ll look for another improved performance Friday against the visiting Miami Marlins, who have fared surprisingly well since losing Giancarlo Stanton.

Chicago (42-35) had scored two runs or fewer in eight consecutive games before winning 6-1 against the New York Mets on Thursday, completing a three-game sweep at Citi Field. Though the Cubs fell to 9 for 65 with runners in scoring position over the last nine contests, Starlin Castro and Miguel Montero were both 2 for 5, with Montero and Jonathan Herrera homering.

Joe Maddon gave Kris Bryant his first day off since being called up April 17, perhaps in an attempt to help Bryant shake off his slump. He is 7 for 41 (.171) with 16 strikeouts in his last 12 games.

“I can’t sit here and tell you we bludgeoned them,” Maddon said. “I know they’ve been offensively challenged. So have we. It’s the ebb and flow of the season.”

The Marlins (34-46) swept San Francisco with a 5-4 win Thursday as Jose Fernandez homered and earned the victory in his first start in more than a year. They’ve won four of five since losing Stanton for four to six weeks with a hamate fracture in his left wrist. Stanton leads the majors with 27 homers and has 67 RBIs.

Christian Yelich is 9 for 14 with six walks since Stanton went down.

Miami’s Tom Koehler (6-4, 3.66 ERA) comes off back-to-back seven inning outings for the first time this season, knocking off the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers. He limited Los Angeles to two runs in a 3-2 victory Saturday.

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“I sit up here every time he pitches and talk about his gritty, gutty effort,” manager Dan Jennings told MLB’s official website. ” … He stuck his nose in there today and gave this club exactly what we needed. Tremendous effort by him.”

While Koehler can win a third straight start in the same season for the first time, the last two victories came at home, where he owns a 1.79 ERA in seven starts. The right-hander sports a 6.21 ERA in seven road games and is 13-12 lifetime at home compared to 8-13 on the road.

Koehler didn’t pick up a decision in his last matchup with the Cubs, giving up four runs – three on a Castro homer – over six innings in a 5-4 home loss June 16, 2014.

Castro is the only Cub with multiple hits off Koehler, going 2 for 7.

Jason Hammel (5-3, 2.92) had a tough time returning to the mound after a 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay Sunday at St. Louis. He was charged with a season high-matching four runs in four innings in a 4-1 loss.

Hammel, who has posted a 1.56 ERA in his last five home outings, has walked 10 in his past five starts after issuing seven in his first 10. He’s 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in his last four meetings with the Marlins, allowing one run and striking out a career-best 11 over 6 2-3 innings of a 5-1 victory June 1.

The Marlins took the next two in that series with Adeiny Hechavarria going 3 for 7. He’s 9 for 16 in his last four against the Cubs.

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