CHICAGO (CBSMiami/AP) – The Miami Marlins recent string of wins came to an end on Saturday, but the team is hoping to start a new one in Sunday’s rubber match at Wrigley.
The Chicago Cubs’ run production is trending toward an alarming dependency on the home run, and that’s usually not such a good thing against Mat Latos.
The Marlins right-hander typically does a good job keeping the ball in the park, though that hasn’t been the case in his last three starts.
After Saturday’s 7-2 win, the Cubs (43-36) have a shot at salvaging a split in the six-game season series, which could be difficult without providing any bleacher souvenirs.
Kris Bryant had a grand slam and a two-run homer to match the Cubs’ home run total from the previous 10 games. They also hit two home runs in Thursday’s 6-1 win at the New York Mets, and those are the only two times in their last 11 games that they’ve managed more than two runs. Ten of their 14 runs in the last three have come via the long ball.
Chicago had only two other hits Saturday and is batting .211 in 12 games with Anthony Rizzo in a 3-for-28 slump.
“It was pretty much (Bryant), that was our offense,” manager Joe Maddon said.
Miami (35-47) saw its four-game winning streak end, though Christian Yelich had two hits, improving to 12 for 23 in seven games and 15 for 37 lifetime at Wrigley.
Latos (3-5, 5.27 ERA), who has surrendered four home runs in three starts after giving up three in his first 10, ranks among the top quarter of starters since the start of 2013 with a rate of 0.71 homers per nine innings.
He hasn’t been able to string together strong outings over a six-start span while going 2-2 with a 5.82 ERA, though he did enough for a win in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over San Francisco. The 27-year-old gave up three runs – two earned – and six hits in six innings, and with the calendar flipped to July, trade speculation is beginning with the Marlins sitting 12 games under .500.
“I’m not worried about it,” Latos said. “I’m still here. Until they tell me they’re going to throw me out of the clubhouse, I’m going to fight for this team.”
He’s 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five career starts at Wrigley, and his seven overall wins against the Cubs is his top total against any team. Rizzo is 2 for 15 against Latos.
Chicago counters with Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 4.15), who allowed three hits in six innings of Tuesday’s 1-0 win against the Mets to earn the decision. That followed consecutive losses in which the right-hander gave up 10 earned runs in 10 innings. Good or bad, Maddon isn’t overloading the second-year pitcher with pressure or expectations.
“When I see him, he just tells me to be myself. Every day he sees me, ‘Hey, just be yourself.’ And that’s been a thing for me,” Hendricks told MLB’s official website.
“At times I’ve tried to do too much mentally. Sometimes physically, too, with my mechanics. At the end of the day I need to be myself and just go out there and pitch my game. This was much better. I just focused mentally on every pitch, to make a good pitch. That was the only thought I had.”
The 25-year-old is still looking for his first home win of the season, but he’s 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 13 career starts at Wrigley.
His only start against the Marlins came in a 5-2 loss in Miami on June 2 while surrendering four runs and seven hits in six innings.
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