Manager Joe Maddon and slugger Kris Bryant theorized that the Cubs were prone to a 20-strikeout performance Friday night while playing 17 innings.
“That’s pretty much our average,” said Maddon, who joked that the strikeout total was accumulated during a doubleheader.
Despite striking out another 11 times Saturday night, the Cubs were able to shore up one shortcoming.
The discovery of the clutch hit resurfaced with Ben Zobrist’s tie-breaking single in the 10th inning, and Bryant followed later with a three-run double that provided enough cushion for a 10-6 victory over the Marlins.
After collecting only two hits in their first 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position, the Cubs made the most of a 4-for-16 performance that overshadowed the struggles of starter Yu Darvish in his Cubs debut.
Darvish, who signed a six-year, $126 million contract in February, failed to go very deep into the game to provide rest for a taxed bullpen after Friday’s extra-inning loss.
Darvish lasted only 4 1/3 innings in a 102-pitch outing. Darvish was grazed by Miguel Rojas’s single in the fifth but said he was fine despite later blowing a three-run lead in the inning.
“It was more of a location problem with my pitches,” said Darvish, who allowed a two-run home run to Derek Dietrich in the first.
For the second time in three games, the Cubs’ offense and bullpen picked up the rotation. Javier Baez, who didn’t start because Maddon wanted to give some playing time to Zobrist, started the winning rally with a double for his first hit of the season.
Zobrist pulled his game-winning hit to right off submarine-style pitcher Brad Ziegler, who was yanked after Bryant pulled his double down the left-field line. Bryant and Zobrist have been the exception to the problems that have led to the high strikeout total.
“The pull-heavy (tendency) is indicated by strikeouts,” Maddon said. “Let the speed of the ball dictate where you hit it.”
Anthony Rizzo actually foiled a Marlins’ shift with a two-out single to shallow right in the fifth to snap a 2-2 tie.
Kyle Schwarber hit his second homer in three games, a two-run blast that landed midway in the upper deck in right field to tie the game in the second. Schwarber also doubled to start the sixth and that set up a Jason Heyward sacrifice fly.
Despite getting 52/3 innings from his bullpen, Maddon thought he might have enough coverage for Sunday’s series finale. That might be asking a lot from a bullpen that has allowed two runs in 22 innings.
Mike Montgomery, pitching in his third consecutive game, pitched a scoreless 10th. Montgomery has thrown 36 pitches during his stretch.
“I actually feel pretty good,” Montgomery said. “Maybe I’m a little fatigued, but I was able to get a ground ball (for a game-ending double play).”
Carl Edwards Jr. was used for the second consecutive night after throwing 29 pitches Friday. Left-hander Brian Duensing, who needed only five pitches to get Darvish out of more trouble in the fifth, should be available Sunday.