The Chicago Cubs showed up to Miami looking like out-of-fashion tourists from the disco era by wearing brightly colored short-shorts. It was one of manager Joe Maddon’s zany theme trips.
The Marlins gave them a quick undressing.
Giancarlo Stanton had reason to smile for the first time in weeks when he homered and drove in the go-ahead run with a two-out single in the eighth as the Marlins knocked off the first-place Chicago Cubs with a 4-2 victory on Thursday at Marlins Park.
A crowd of 25,291 was hand to catch the Marlins and Cubs, who own the best record in the majors.
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“We seem to have a penchant for big games against some teams,” said reliever David Phelps, who squirmed out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to tally the save. “This whole series feels like a playoff series. The crowd was getting loud.”
It was Stanton who raised the decibel level a notch when he came through in the eighth with a two-out RBI single off Cubs reliever Pedro Strop that broke a 2-2 tie. It was his 500th career RBI.
Stanton, who brought a .211 average into the game after suffering through the worst hitting slump of his career, may finally be showing signs of renewed life, as he is 10 for his last 25.
“At some point, you’ve got to say, ‘My season starts today,’” manager Don Mattingly said of Stanton’s prolonged slump. “At some point you start it. Tonight, if he’s going to look at it like that, I’ll look at it like that. Tonight’s a pretty good start.”
Stanton didn’t disagree, but says he still has a ways to go before he can certify the slump as officially over.
“I’m not going to be at ease for a long time,” Stanton said. “There’s no ease until about October, to be honest. I’ve got a lot to do. Personally, I’ve got more to do. But I’m very happy with today.”
Stanton acknowledged that it was hard not to see the scoreboard and notice his dwindling batting average every time he stepped to the plate.
“It’s way worse trying to play, looking up at where you’re at and trying to get all that back in one at bat,” Stanton said.
After the Cubs scored the first run in the fourth, Stanton answered back in the bottom of the inning with his 14th homer, a solo shot off Jon Lester. And then Marcell Ozuna put the Marlins on top in the sixth with another solo shot, his 16th homer.
Meanwhile, Wei-Yin Chen was finally looking like the pitcher the Marlins invested $80 million in when they signed him over the winter. After three straight dismal starts heading into Thursday, Chen was magnificent.
He gave up a run in the fourth that was in large part due to a fielding mistake by Ozuna, who allowed a routine single skip by him for, enabling Jason Heyward to get to third.
And he retired 11 straight batters before allowing a game-tying leadoff homer in the eighth to David Ross, which brought the pitcher’s night to an end.
“It looked like tonight he pitched with an attitude, that he was going to be aggressive and that he was going to go after people,” Mattingly said of Chen, who struck out seven and did not issue any walks.
Said Chen: “I didn’t really do anything different. This year I’ve been pretty well physically, but I didn’t pitch that well. I just tried to keep it simple, because I was over-thinking.”
After Stanton put the Marlins ahead in the eighth, J.T. Realmuto added another run with his RBI double off Strop.
With A.J. Ramos given the night off, Mattingly turned to Phelps to pitch the ninth.
But after recording the first out, Phelps ran into trouble, loading the bases on a pair of singles and walk, with a balk mixed in.
Phelps, though, struck out former Marlin Chris Coghlan before retiring Ben Zobrist on a fly ball to close out the win.