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Cubs 2, Marlins 0: Pitching, defense and timely hitting

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Patrick Wisdom’s epic at-bat helped key a run-scoring rally, and great pitching shut down the Marlins.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs came into this game having scored just 14 runs over their last seven games, losing five of those contests.

They didn’t add great offense to that total; Sunday’s game was the eighth straight Cubs game where the team had scored three or fewer runs.

Fortunately, thanks to some great defense, timely hitting and solid pitching for nine innings, two runs was enough Sunday for a 2-0 win over the Marlins. Curiously, the Cubs’ last three wins have now been by that score, this one, Thursday over the Mets and last Sunday over the Cardinals.

Eventually this offense will get untracked. For now, let’s celebrate some very good Cubs baseball played on Sunday.

Alec Mills was solid over the first three innings, even while allowing four hits, and he got some help from Javier Báez on two plays in the second [VIDEO].

El Mago really does make those look so easy. On the second play, also give credit to Sergio Alcántara, who made a great stab of a throw that wasn’t quite accurate.

The Cubs put their first Sunday run on the board in the bottom of the third without a hit. Jason Heyward walked, and after a pair of strikeouts advanced to third when a ball popped out of Miguel Rojas’ glove for an error on a ball hit by Joc Pederson. Pederson, alertly, took second when Heyward drew a throw toward the plate.

Then Heyward scored on a passed ball [VIDEO].

Mills completed five innings, allowing six singles. Only one Marlins player got past first base, and Mills struck out three while issuing no walks. That’s a fine, fine outing.

The Cubs scored their other run in the fifth. Heyward had been batting when Anthony Rizzo got himself picked off second in the fourth — his second pickoff of the game, not a good day for the Cubs first baseman, who later hit into a double play. But when the Marlins replaced Zach Thompson with lefthander Ross Detwiler, David Ross sent Patrick Wisdom to bat for Heyward leading off the fifth.

Turned out that was a really good idea [VIDEO].

Wisdom’s 15-pitch at-bat exceeded Rizzo’s epic 14-pitch AB from a week ago Friday by one pitch:

Unlike Rizzo’s, it didn’t result in a home run, but Wisdom’s single to left was the Cubs’ first hit of the game. After Alcántara flied to left, Jake Marisnick singled with Wisdom taking second.

Fun fact about Wisdom’s hit:

Joc Pederson then drove in Wisdom [VIDEO].

Marisnick took third, but Kris Bryant hit into a double play to end the inning.

And then it was all up to the Cubs bullpen, which as you know has been outstanding this season. Ryan Tepera threw the sixth and seventh, retiring all six hitters he faced on just 17 pitches. Andrew Chafin, similarly an easy 1-2-3 eighth on just nine pitches — both should be available Monday if needed.

As for Tepera:

Pretty good company, Ryan.

And then it was Craig Kimbrel time. A strikeout of Adam Duvall was the first out, then an easy ground ball to third, and here’s the final out, another strikeout [VIDEO].

I happened to glance at the scoreboard clock after the sixth inning, since the game had felt kind of draggy and rain was in the forecast. The first six innings took 2:15. The last three were played in 37 minutes, and that included a single by Ian Happ leading off the seventh. Cubs pitchers retired the final 11 Marlins in order.

For Kimbrel, that was his 20th save of the season and 368th of his career. That moves him into a tie with Jonathan Papelbon for ninth place on the all-time saves list. Next up: Joe Nathan with 377.

This was a satisfying win in front of a festive crowd of 37,158 at the ol’ ballyard. When I left Wrigley the Brewers were ahead of the Rockies 6-0, but at this writing that game is tied 6-6 in the ninth inning. You never know at Coors Field, right? If the Rockies can win this game, the Cubs will be a game ahead of Milwaukee in first place in the NL Central; worst-case scenario, the Cubs and Brewers are tied heading into Monday’s action.

Cleveland comes to town for a brief two-game series beginning Monday evening. Adbert Alzolay will be activated from the injured list to start for the Cubs and Aaron Civale is scheduled to go for Cleveland. Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.