The home run sculpture at Marlins Park got back to work Friday night.
Joe Mahoney put it in motion with his first career big-league home run, a towering 423-foot solo blast to right field that landed about seven rows up on the upper-deck level.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, it’s still the out-of-town guys in the opposing uniforms supplying the bulk of the power around here.
Fueled by a pair of 400-foot-plus, two-run bombs off the bat of Parkland Douglas High graduate Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs beat the Marlins again Friday night, 4-2, in front of an announced crowd of 16,017 at Marlins Park.
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“It was a good day, especially after looking at the video after the game,” said Rizzo, who was relieved to produce a three-hit day Friday a night after he went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in front of dozens of family members and friends.
“It may sound stupid, but the single in my last at-bat was my favorite [hit] because that was my swing there — stay inside the ball.”
The single might have been his favorite hit, but it was the two homers that hurt the Marlins. Miami, which has hit a major-league-low seven homers, has been outhomered on its home field 11-2 in 11 games this season. With two more losses to the Cubs (8-14) this weekend, the Marlins (5-18) will match the worst start in franchise history (5-20) set in 1995.
On Friday, it was Cubs right-hander Scott Feldman who held the Marlins’ bats in check. The 30-year-old right-hander, who came in with a 0-8 record and a combined 4.77 ERA over his past 11 starts dating to last season, picked up his first victory since Aug. 4 of last season by scattering seven hits and allowing two earned runs over 6 2/3 innings.
The Marlins, who also have the fewest runs scored (59) and the worst team batting average (.222) in the majors, bounced into two costly double plays in the third and fourth innings to kill rallies, wasted a one-out double by Rob Brantly in the second and finished 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
Chris Valaika plated the Marlins’ second run in the seventh on a sacrifice fly following a Brantly walk and a Chris Coghlan double. But it meant little. Former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg shut the door in the ninth, picking up his second save of the season.
The good news for the Marlins? Mahoney at least got his first home run ball back. He traded a signed bat and hat for it.
“It’s good to get the first one out of the way, kind of settle in,” said Mahoney, who the Marlins hope can provide more pop in a punchless lineup. “I’d been waiting to get that for awhile now. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
As nice as Mahoney’s homer was, the better hometown story Friday was Rizzo, who overcame Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2008 and enjoyed a fun night.
The 23-year-old first baseman, who came in hitting just .173 this season after helping anchor Italy’s run to the second round of the World Baseball Classic last month at Marlins Park, broke out of a 1-for-20 slump by crushing the first pitch he saw from Marlins starter Wade LeBlanc in the first inning. The ball traveled an estimated 420 feet and landed in the bushy area behind the Stanley sign in center field.
Two innings later, with Cubs leadoff hitter Dave Sappelt on base again following his second hit, Rizzo smacked a 2-1 offering from LeBlanc an estimated 413 feet into the upper deck in right field to make it 4-0.
The rough start for LeBlanc was nothing new. Of the 17 earned runs he has allowed in his 24 2/3 innings of work this season, 10 have come in the first inning. Marlins manager Mike Redmond said he was happy with how LeBlanc “grinded after that and stayed in the game.” LeBlanc went six innings, giving up eight hits, four earned runs and a walk with two strikeouts on 87 pitches in falling to 0-4 with a 6.20 ERA this season.
“I can’t keep forcing these guys to try to hit from behind from the very first inning,” he said. “I have to figure out how to get three outs and get these guy a lead for us so we can relax and play with a lead.”