2-hit ball betters Marshall's odds

Chicago CubsMiami MarlinsSean MarshallJacque JonesJuan EncarnacionKerry WoodSt. Louis Cardinals

Imagine Kerry Wood and Mark Prior coming back to the Cubs at the end of May and discovering there's no room in the rotation.

While that's an unlikely scenario, rookie left-hander Sean Marshall doesn't look like a guy simply making a cameo appearance until the big guns return.

Marshall shut out Florida on two hits through seven innings Tuesday night, outpitching Dontrelle Willis to lead the Cubs to a 3-1 victory on a frigid evening at Wrigley Field.

Marshall (2-0) carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before giving up a one-out single in the best performance of his four major-league starts. He credited the coaching staff and teammates for giving him the resources and advice to make his job easier.

"Having veterans like Greg Maddux and Glendon Rusch and hitters like John Mabry … when I'm not pitching, I pick their brain and just try to find out as much information as I can so I can have future success," he said.

Marshall used his curve to perfection, striking out seven hitters, including six of the last 11 he faced. His poise is what makes Marshall an even bet to stick in the rotation even after Wood and Prior return.

"The young man has done a great job as far as not being affected by outside influences," manager Dusty Baker said. "If you can pitch Sunday night in your first big-league game against the St. Louis Cardinals on national TV, there's not a whole bunch more other than a playoff situation that you're going to have to handle."

The Cubs will throw another rookie at the Marlins Wednesday when Angel Guzman makes his big-league debut.

Matt Murton was the offensive star Tuesday night with two runs batted in against Willis, and Jerry Hairston pulled off a successful squeeze bunt on a 2-1 pitch in the eighth to score Murton from third. It was another example of the kind of ball the Cubs have to play to compensate for the loss of injured slugger Derrek Lee.

"I think we have a different type of team," Hairston said. "It's more [Baker's] style, with speed and bunting and hit-and-running. It all starts at the top with Juan Pierre. He has done a great job as a catalyst, keeping us loose."

Murton singled home the first run in the fourth after Aramis Ramirez walked and Michael Barrett, the No. 5 hitter, bunted him over. In the seventh, Murton followed Barrett's leadoff double with another run-scoring double. Although Murton had been in the first real slump of his major-league career, Baker was not concerned.

"Water seeks its own level," Baker said. "This guy is going to hit. We had a long chat [Monday]. He was trying to think too much, I think. Just be yourself … I said, 'Are you guessing?' He said, 'Oh, no.' I said, 'Yes, you were.'"

Well, if he is, Murton guessed right twice against Willis, and the Cubs had their third straight victory.

"The big thing is to maintain your approach," Murton said.

He didn't think he had been doing that the last five or six games.

"I started allowing myself to get away from the things I needed to do, dictated by what the pitchers were doing to me," he said.

Cubs fans were seemingly on their best behavior after abusing Jacque Jones on Monday night. The Cubs seemed resigned to the notion their fans are going to boo whoever they want, whenever they want.

"They were booing in St. Louis too," Baker said. "Maybe that's the way of the world now. I never saw them boo anybody in St. Louis, but they were booing Juan Encarnacion. They're booing guys everywhere."

psullivan@tribune.com

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