Costly error, missed chance as Cubs lose to Marlins 4-2

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 25: Dee Gordon #9 and Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins celebrate the win after the game between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on June 25, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

MIAMI — Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says this season is like learning to swim, with his team hoping to tread water until several key players return from the disabled list.

“We’re just trying to keep the floaties on,” Maddon said before Sunday’s game.

Then came another injury and another defeat, leaving the defending World Series champions with that sinking feeling once again.

The Cubs wasted a fine pitching performance by Mike Montgomery, stranding 11 runners and allowing three unearned runs to lose to the Miami Marlins, 4-2.

Chicago also lost shortstop Addison Russell , who departed in the fourth inning. He complained of a sharp pinching pain in his throwing shoulder, which has bothered him at times the past two seasons. Russell is expected to miss at least one game and perhaps more.

The Marlins scored three unearned runs in the first after leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki reached when Russell bobbled his grounder for an error.

“The first play of the game was indicative — an awkward spin on the ball, I understand that,” Maddon said.

“There were just a couple of other things we did today that kind of gave it to them. Of course we didn’t hit enough.”

Edinson Volquez (4-8) gave up five hits and five walks in five innings, but stranded eight runners and departed with a 3-2 lead.

“I got used to pitching from the stretch,” Volquez said with a smile. “I was able to make a lot of good pitches to get out of innings.”

Volquez and three relievers combined to give up eight hits and seven walks. But the Cubs bounced into a double play, had a runner caught stealing and stranded at least one runner in seven innings.

Maddon was most annoyed about a botched hit and run with Wilson Contreras at the plate, which led to Ian Happ being caught stealing.

“We were trying to avoid a double play,” Maddon said. “The mental mistakes are what make me upset.”

Suzuki, 43, became the oldest player to start in center field since at least 1900, surpassing Rickey Henderson. Suzuki batted leadoff for the first time this year and went 0 for 4, dropping his average to .200.

Giancarlo Stanton hit his 20th homer for Miami, a solo shot off reliever Pedro Strop in the seventh.

Montgomery (1-4), making his fourth start of the year, settled down after the rocky first to pitch six innings. He allowed three runs, none earned, and his ERA fell to 2.03.

Volquez improved to 8-0 in 13 games against the Cubs, the best record against them among active pitchers. He said he didn’t know until afterward he was undefeated against them.

A.J. Ramos retired all four batters he faced for his 12th save. The Marlins have scored 12 runs on 21 hits in their past five games, but won three.

“We stole a couple in there,” manager Don Mattingly said.

“The pitching has kept the games close,” Ramos said. “We’re going to start hitting again pretty soon. We were due for a stretch where we weren’t hitting as much, but we’re doing enough to get wins.”

The Marlins’ Martin Prado, playing his third game after a long stint on the disabled list, hit a two-run double in the first for his first RBIs since May 5.

Volquez walked the bases loaded in the second, but escaped when Anthony Rizzo popped out to end the inning. In the fourth inning Rizzo delivered a sacrifice fly, but Kris Bryant then struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning and strand two more runners.

“Probably just trying to do too much instead of just score one,” Maddon said.

Miami and Chicago split the four-game series.