MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton was the target of his teammates’ postgame celebration for a change Thursday, and afterward he stood at his locker with shaving cream in his hair, on the side of his face and even under his chin.
Menthol, he figured.
“I haven’t tasted it yet,” he said. “But I can smell it.”
Ah, the smell of success. Stanton homered in the fourth inning and singled home the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth, helping the Miami Marlins send the Chicago Cubs to their fourth consecutive defeat, 4-2.
Stanton’s two hits hiked his average to a still-woeful .216, and he has been even worse in clutch situations. One win made the $325 million slugger feel only slightly better about his season.
“I’m not going to be at ease for a long time,” Stanton said. “I’m going to keep pushing forward. There’s no ease until about October. I’ve got a lot to do.”
His heroics nearly went for naught in a harrowing ninth inning. With Miami closer A.J. Ramos being rested, David Phelps pitched out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the ninth when Chris Coghlan struck out and Ben Zobrist flied out.
Teammate Bryan Morris smiled at Phelps’ escape.
“Just the way he drew it up,” Morris said.
The Cubs managed just seven hits and have totaled nine runs during their losing streak.
“We’re just not scoring runs lately,” manager Joe Maddon said.
The injury-hampered Cubs still have the best record in the majors, despite their longest losing streak of the season. The game marked the start of a season-high 11-game trip for the Cubs, and came after they were swept in a three-game series at Wrigley Field by the Cardinals.
“This is definitely not going to make or break our season,” left-hander Jon Lester said, “but at the same time we’ve got to get through this.”
Miami ended Lester’s streak of wins in five consecutive starts. He went seven innings and allowed two runs, on homers by Stanton and Marcell Ozuna.
“I kept the team in it,” Lester said. “Two solo homers usually don’t beat you, especially this team.”
The Cubs’ David Ross led off the eighth with his sixth homer to make the score 2-all.
Christian Yelich started Miami’s rally in the bottom of the eighth with a one-out walk against Pedro Strop (1-2). He advanced on a wild pitch and scored standing up on Stanton’s opposite-field single.
J.T. Realmuto followed with an RBI double. Kyle Barraclough (4-2) pitched a scoreless eighth.
Wei-Yin Chen took a 2-1 lead into the eighth but departed after he allowed Ross’ homer. Over the past three games, the Marlins’ starting pitchers have allowed two runs in 22 innings.
Stanton’s homer was his 14th. He has only 34 RBIs, and 87 strikeouts.
“With Giancarlo, I don’t think we can worry about the past,” Mattingly said. “That’s part of the problem — we’re always going, ‘He hasn’t done this or that.‘ At some point you just have to say, ‘My season starts today,‘ because you’re not going to get anything back.”
The Marlins improved to 5-2 on their homestand, and look forward to three more meetings with the Cubs this week.
“If we go where we want to go in this season, we’re going to run into teams like this all the rest of the way,” Phelps said. “We seem to have a penchant for big games. It’s exciting. This whole series feels like a playoff series.”
Cubs: The newest entry on their injury list is 1B Anthony Rizzo (stiff back), who was held out of the starting lineup, and his status is day to day. “I don’t think it’s anything significant more than stiffness,” Maddon said. ... RHP Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery) began a rehab assignment Thursday at Double-A Tennessee.
Cubs rookie Willson Contreras, playing in his fifth major league game, started at 1B for the first time to replace Rizzo. In the minors, Contreras played 1B, 2B, 3B, C, LF and RF.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 2.94) is scheduled to start Friday for the Cubs against RHP Tom Koehler (6-6, 3.92).