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Marlins defeat Cubs to complete two-game sweep in NL wild-card series

The Marlins' Garrett Cooper rounds the bases after homering in Game 2 of a NL wild-card baseball series on Oct. 2, 2020.
The Marlins’ Garrett Cooper rounds the bases after hitting a solo homer during the seventh inning of Miami’s 2-0 win Friday at Wrigley Field.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Garrett Cooper homered against Yu Darvish in a two-run seventh, hard-throwing rookie Sixto Sanchez dominated for five innings and the Miami Marlins won their first playoff series in 17 years, beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on Friday to complete a two-game wild-card series sweep.

Miami will face the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series in Houston starting Tuesday.

Led by manager Don Mattingly and chief executive Derek Jeter, the Marlins remained unbeaten in all seven postseason series they have played, including triumphs in the 1997 and 2003 NL Championship Series and World Series.

And this time, in empty Wrigley Field, they didn’t need a hand from a fan. In Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, fan Steve Bartman deflected Luis Castillo’s foul ball as Cubs left fielder Moises Alou tried to make a leaping catch, which led to an eight-run, eighth-inning rally.

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Miami lost 105 games in 2019 and became the first team to reach the playoffs after a 100-loss season. The Marlins finished second in the NL East at 31-29 being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that forced 18 players from the field following the opening series and prevented them from playing for more than a week.

“The one thing that we talked about us all year was why not us?” Mattingly said. “With this kind of pitching, you can do anything. You feel like you’ve got a good shot at kind of stopping almost anybody if you make pitches.”

Miami had T-shirts with “Bottom Feeders” in its dugout Friday, a reference to a remark by Ricky Bottalico, a former Phillies pitcher and current NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst, after the Marlins’ opening day win in Philadelphia.

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“We’re here and the Phillies are at home, so I think the ‘bottom feeders’ is a good mantra to live on,” Cooper said.

Chicago, the NL Central champion, went three for 27 (.111) with runners on base in the series. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined to go 0 for 12 on Friday and finished the series one for 24. The trio is 19 for 142 (.134) with 52 strikeouts and six walks in the postseason since the 2016 World Series title as Chicago has lost nine of 13.

Chicago missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2014, then scored one run in its return. The Cubs haven’t advanced since the 2017 team lost in the NLCS.

“Just numb,” Rizzo said.

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Cooper gave the Marlins a 1-0 lead with two out in the seventh with a drive into the seats beyond the left-field wall. Matt Joyce doubled off the glove of diving center fielder Ian Happ, and Miguel Rojas chased Darvish with an RBI single.

“That’s probably the best feeling I’ve had in my baseball career, the biggest home run that I’ve had in my baseball career,” Cooper said. “It’s just something that you can’t explain.”

Sanchez overpowered the Cubs, striking out six and giving up four hits. The 22-year-old right-hander walked two and hit two batters.

Winner Brad Boxberger threw 1 1/3 innings. Richard Bleier got two outs in the seventh, and Yimi Garcia worked the eighth.

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Lou Johnson, the hero of the Dodger’s 1965 World Series win, who overcame a drug addiction before becoming a longtime team employee, dies at age 86.

Former Cub Brandon Kintzler gave up a leadoff double to Jason Heyward in the ninth. But he struck out the next three batters, pumping his right arm after he got pinch-hitter Jason Kipnis swinging on a 2-2 pitch to end the game.

Darvish, who took the loss, gave up two runs and five hits in 6 2/3 innings. The four-time All-Star struck out six and walked two in his first playoff appearance since Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, when he got knocked out early pitching for the Dodgers in a loss to the Houston Astros.

But the Cubs — who ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 average — got just five hits after managing four in a 5-1 loss Wednesday.

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Starling Marte not in lineup

Marlins: The Marlins held outfielder Starling Marte out of the lineup because of a small, nondisplaced fracture of the bone running between his left pinky and wrist. He was hit by a fastball in the ninth inning Wednesday.


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