The Marlins’ two previous victories on Wednesday and Friday came with only a combined five hits.
They nearly matched that total on Saturday afternoon, but it wasn’t enough.
J.T. Realmuto’s first-inning, three-run home run was one of only four hits for the Marlins in a 5-3 loss to the Cubs — only their fifth defeat in their past 18 games at home.
“As an offense once we jump out like that we have to build on runs,” Realmuto said. “It’s unacceptable to score three in the first and then not sniff another run the rest of the game.”
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The announced crowd of 25,448, most of which cheered for the reigning World Series champions, watched as Realmuto drilled a curveball from Jon Lester an estimated 411 feet off the wall above the Clevelander bar in left field to put the Marlins (33-40) ahead 3-1. Realmuto’s seventh homer of the season came with two outs after Giancarlo Stanton singled and Christian Yelich walked earlier in the inning.
“I’m really just trying to get a run across the board,” Realmuto said. “I just got a good pitch that I was able to handle.”
The catcher Realmuto followed his home run in the top of the second with a tremendous defensive play when he fielded a bunt by former Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy High star Albert Almora Jr., spun around and threw quickly on target to first base as the Cubs went down in order in the inning.
But the lead didn’t last much longer.
The Cubs (38-36) answered with two runs in the fourth to end another short start by Justin Nicolino and tacked on two more in the sixth against Nick Wittgren (1-1).
Lester (5-4) would not allow another run and only two more hits after the first inning of a seven-inning start.
“It’s a roller-coaster ride all season, but I think we’ll get it going again,” Realmuto said. “I think we’re swinging at some pitches we shouldn’t be right now. We just have to get back locked in and not try to do too much at the plate.”
Nicolino, who made his second start since returning from the disabled list with a left index finger contusion, was removed after four innings, in which he gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and struck out four without a walk.
Nicolino has only pitched past the fourth inning once in five starts this season.
His short outing forced Marlins manager Don Mattingly to turn to the bullpen early.
Wittgren started things off well with a perfect fifth inning, but things unraveled quickly in the sixth.
Wittgren gave up three consecutive hits, including a pair of doubles that allowed the Cubs to take a 5-3 lead. Addison Russell led off the inning with a double and Ian Happ followed with a single. Javier Baez then belted a ball that sailed past Stanton to the wall in right field to score both runners.
The poor outing was Wittgren’s worst of the season, as he matched season highs in runs (two) and hits (three) allowed. Wittgren had given up multiple runs only once in 25 previous relief appearances.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after University of Miami and Columbus High alum Jon Jay singled and eventually came around to score on a single by Willson Contreras.
Almora pulled the Cubs even at 3 in the fourth with a game-tying RBI double.