MIAMI—As Carlos Zambrano took the mound Friday night, Hurricane Dennis was inching its way toward south Florida.
The question before the Cubs-Marlins game was which force of nature would make a bigger impactBig Z or the 35-m.p.h. wind gusts swirling through Dolphins Stadium.
But rain from the outer edge of the hurricane soaked the ballpark in the top of the ninth inning with the Cubs leading 8-6, delaying the game for 57 minutes.
When play resumed, the Cubs hung on for a 9-6 victory for Zambrano (6-4).
Ryan Dempster closed it out in the ninth, converting his 13th consecutive save opportunity.
While Zambrano wasn't on top of his game, walking six in seven innings, he managed to outpitch Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis.
"The wind was a factor and so was the weather," Zambrano said. "That's no excuse, but my sinker was moving a lot more than normal. I was feeling a little uncomfortable, but fortunately we won the game and are out of the streak, so let's move on."
The Cubs tagged Willis for eight runs on nine hits in 41/3 innings, his shortest stint of the season in his final start before heading to the All-Star Game.
Cubs rookie left fielder Matt Murton had a memorable day in his major-league debut, going 2-for-2 with a walk and an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
Murton, the throw-in from Boston in last summer's trade for Nomar Garciaparra, fittingly smashed his first hit off Willis, the Cubs' throw-in to Florida in the 2002 Matt Clement deal.
"It was huge how these guys treated us," Murton said of the way he and fellow rookie call-up Adam Greenberg were received in the Cubs' clubhouse.
"I had some nervousness, but once it started I knew it was just a baseball game and you just go out and compete."
Jeromy Burnitz poked a two-run homer, Jerry Hairston contributed two RBI singles and the Cubs' offense came out of hibernation after sleepwalking its way through four straight losses in Atlanta.
But with the Cubs leading 8-3 in the eighth, reliever Michael Wuertz replaced Zambrano and walked the first two men he faced on eight pitches, then promptly served up a three-run homer to Mike Lowell to give the Marlins new life.
While the Cubs aren't heading toward a youth movement, the arrival of Murton and Adam Greenberg signaled a change in philosophy.
How much action they will get remains to be seen, but Murton figured to get two more starts this weekend against Marlins left-handers Scott Olsen and Al Leiter, giving him a chance to show if he belongs in the starting lineup.
"It's up to them," Baker said of the two rookies. "I hope they can contribute some energy and some quality play and they can help us win. That's why they're here."
The Atlanta Braves had 10 rookies on their roster in their four-game sweep over the Cubs and have had 14 rookies play this season. Could the Cubs cop the Braves' blueprint and meld some of their young talent in with their veterans to provide a second-half spark?
"Obviously these guys can play," ailing first baseman Derrek Lee said. "Who knows? The Braves have 10 rookies over there and they're winning."
Baker hedged a bit when asked if the Cubs' kids could contribute like the Braves' youth brigade.
He said the Braves rookies were more "auxiliary helpers, setting the table for their big boys" like Andruw Jones and Adam LaRoche.
"I love youth," Baker said. "But youth has to be able to play. They're not here to paint. They're here to help us win."