CHICAGO — The Miami Marlins didn’t need a hand from a fan at Wrigley Field to knock the Chicago Cubs out of the playoffs this time. They did just fine on their own, and they showed they’re hardly bottom feeders.
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 Cubs 2-0 Friday to complete a two-game wild card series sweep.
Miami will face Atlanta in the NL Division Series in Houston starting Tuesday.
Led by manager Don Mattingly and CEO Derek Jeter, the Marlins remained unbeaten in all seven postseason series they have played following triumphs in the 1997 and 2003 World Series. And this time, in empty Wrigley Field, they didn’t need an assist from the crowd. 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.
“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 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 Marlins had T-shirts with “Bottom Feeders” in their 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.
“I want to thank Ricky Bottalico for that motivation,” closer Brandon Kintzler said.
Chicago, the NL Central champion, went 3 for 27 (.111) with runners on base in the series. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo combined to go 0 for 12 Friday and finished the series 1 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,
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.
Kintzler, a former Cub, 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.
While Darvish delivered the sort of performance that put him in the NL Cy Young conversation, the Cubs – who ranked among the worst in the majors with a .220 average – couldn’t get their offense going. They got just five hits after managing four in a 5-1 loss on Wednesday.
“I feel like we were competing against the other team and our struggle,” Baez said. “We couldn’t get hot. We couldn’t compete and it didn’t go our way. We didn’t play half of the season and for me the second half is so important. You can make your first half disappear.”
The Marlins lost six of 10 against the Braves, including a 29-9 romp at Atlanta on Sept. 9. It was the most runs allowed by Miami and the most scored by the Braves.
All seven Central Division teams lost in the first round, going a combined 2-14. NL Central teams were 1-8, with the Reds and Brewers also getting swept.
Marlins: The Marlins held OF 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.