For the second night in a row in Florida, it was a Marlon Byrd home run that ended up driving in the game winning run. However this time around it came earlier in the game to stake rookie spot starter Casey Coleman to a 3-0 lead. After the last two nights in Miami, Byrd is probably disappointed the Cubs only got to play a short two game set there. It is good to see Byrd starting to heat up as this Cubs offense needs him to be the hitter he was last season.
Byrd was not the only sight for sore eyes Thursday night. Coleman threw 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball for one of his best outings this season. He was able to tip toe around the five walks he issued while also striking out seven. Coleman is a control pitcher that needs to locate and execute, as his pitches are not overpowering. Despite earning the win and not allowing a run, the walk and strikeout statistics reflect the fine line he has been battling in his starts. When he is hitting his spots, he is tough to hit against. But his margin of error is very slim, and we have seen the consequences when he misses in many of his starts this season. As it was mentioned in one broadcast of a Cubs game, Coleman is a poor man’s Greg Maddux. The kid will need to learn how to harness his control consistently from start to start before he can even begin thinking about having a fraction of Maddux’s success, but at least Maddux himself is still in the Cubs organization for Coleman to learn from.
The other highlights on offense included a RBI double by Reed Johnson, who got the start in left field, to kick off the scoring. With a tight ballgame in the top of the 9th, the Cubs offense tacked on two insurance runs. Starlin Castro hit a clutch two out double into the left center field gap to drive in Koyie Hill and Kosuke Fukudome.
The bullpen surrendered the only run allowed, but they combined to keep the Fighting Fish down and preserve the win for Coleman. Scott Maine, making his return to the Majors from AAA Iowa, cleaned up Coleman’s two walk mess in the 6th inning to keep the Marlins scoreless at the time. It was good to see veteran John Grabow chip in a scoreless inning after one week of not seeing any action. Kerry Wood allowed the solo tally earned by the Marlins, but he was able to limit the damage and had a good inning of work after the embarrassing appearance in Cincinnati the other night.
The Cubs completed their first series sweep of the season, even if it was just the short two game set. The team also said goodbye on a positive note to the football field the Marlins have called home since joining MLB as an expansion team in 1993.