After early-season injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, the Cubs have been waiting for more than a month for the replacements at the back end of their rotation to step up.
Casey Coleman did so Thursday night with his best performance of the season in a 5-1 victory over the Marlins.
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Coleman, who entered with a fat 7.22 ERA, was coming off a miserable outing against the Cardinals on May 12, when he was tagged for 6 runs on 9 hits and 4 walks in 4⅓ innings.
But the 23-year-old right-hander kept the Marlins off the scoreboard, despite allowing 5 walks in 5⅔ innings. Coleman compensated for the free passes by allowing just 4 hits and striking out a career-best seven.
He was especially effective with excellent command of his sliders and changeups, which he kept at the bottom of the strike zone or lower throughout, getting the Marlins to chase bad pitches. His fastball also appeared to have a little more hop than in earlier outings, as he frequently touched 92 and 93 mph on the radar gun.
Coleman's short major-league career has been plagued by disastrous innings -- he has given up 5 or more runs in an inning three times, twice this season. But he pitched out of trouble in the fifth when he fell behind cleanup hitter Gaby Sanchez 3-0 with runners on first and second. On his 93rd pitch of the game, the rookie induced an infield popup to escape the jam.
Coleman's 100th pitch was a 93-mile-an-hour fastball on which he struck out Mike Stanton for the third time. But when he walked the next two hitters, the 6-foot, 185-pounder needed help from Scott Maine, making his first appearance of the season after being called up earlier in the week.
Pinch hitter Wes Helms crushed a Maine pitch 420 feet, but fortunately it was to the deepest part of Sun Life Stadium, in front of the 434-foot sign.
The victory was the second straight for the Cubs, giving them a sweep of the two-game series. It was their first back-to-back wins since May 3-4 in Los Angeles and came on the heels of a three-game losing streak. It was also the Cubs' fifth straight victory at Sun Life Stadium, in its final season for the Marlins.
The Cubs struggled to hold on to big leads during their most recent losing streak, but the bullpen closed out Coleman's second win in 5 decisions by allowing just 1 run in the final 3⅓ innings. With a scoreless ninth inning, Carlos Marmol extended to 23 his streak of road appearances without allowing a run.
Marlon Byrd's second homer in as many nights, a 2-run shot in the fourth, extended the Cubs' lead to 3-1.