MIAMI — The classic paradox of what would happen when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object was not particularly relevant Thursday night when the Cubs and Marlins began a four-game series under a full moon in Miami.
Both offenses have been mutually stoppable, as is evident of their standing as the two worst hitting teams in the National League. And the only immovable objects in Marlins Park were the contracts of some veteran Cubs.
But the series of two NL bottom-feeders proceeded as scheduled, with the Cubs winning 4-3 on Luis Valbuena’s two-out, ninth inning home run off Steve Cishek.
After all the heartbreak of the first three weeks, the victory was huge for the Cubs, no matter who they were playing. Valbuena pumped his first as he rounded first, pointing to the sky.
“I’m so excited — ninth inning, two outs,” he said. ‘I tried to hit a home run. It was the only opportunity I had. I didn’t want to play extra innings. I wanted to win the game there.”
Making things interesting, as is the Cubs’ wont, manager Dale Sveum turned to Carlos Marmol, the closer he won’t admit is the closer, to start the ninth.
“It’s always going to be scary, whoever is out there,” Sveum said.
Perhaps, but it’s especially scary when it’s Marmol time.
After a walk and a single, Kameron Loe began warming up in the bullpen. But Marmol stiffened and got out of the jam, striking out Giancarlo Stanton to notch his second save.
“I feel great, dawg,” Marmol said. “Especially when you get the last out.”
So at what point will Sveum finally admit Marmol is his closer? Or will he ever?
“Nope,” he said. “He pitches great when he doesn’t know he’s the closer.”
Sveum laughed, adding the Cubs now have a “bigger sample size” to test that theorem.
Marmol said before the game he’s ready to go back, and that he wants the job.
“Of course I want to get back there,” he said. “When I pitch good every time, I’ll be there.”
But after getting the save, Marmol said it’s “no big deal” and he will take the ball any time. Told that Sveum likes it better when he doesn’t know his role, Marmol shrugged.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said with a grin.
Edwin Jackson failed to notch his first victory, but Sveum was impressed with his six-inning outing after a rough first in which he threw 35 pitches. Jackson left with a no-decision, allowing three runs on five hits with four walks, four strikeouts and a hit batter.
Nate Schierholtz’s game-tying home run in the sixth made it 3-3, and Hector Rondon and Shawn Camp pitched scoreless innings to take it to the ninth.
Jackson said the Cubs hope to win the series and “put the past behind us.” If the Cubs are going to climb back to the .500 mark, they need to fatten up on teams like the Marlins and Padres, who come to Wrigley Field next week.
“I battled, and the team battled,” Jackson said. “And that was a great win for us.”