For a while, it looked like the Cubs and Jason Hammel were on cruise control against the Marlins on Friday afternoon.
But after another stellar start from Hammel, closer Hector Rondon allowed Miami to tie the game in the ninth before the Cubs went on to walk off in the 13th inning with a 5-3 win in front of 28,495 fans. It was the Cubs' fourth victory in a row and their longest winning streak since July of last year.
Anthony Rizzo, who had scored the winning run in all three games of the Mets series, blasted a two-run walk-off blast in the top of the 13th.
"Fortunately for us, he's on our side," manager Rick Renteria said after Rizzo's walk-off.
Rizzo was 0-for-3 to start Friday's game, but delivered a two-out, two-run double in the eighth to provide some insurance and then drove in his third and fourth runs of the game with his 13th-inning blast.
"Every time I go up there, I feel confident," he said. "Whether I'm 0-for-5 or 0-for-6. ... We've been playing good baseball lately."
Hammel shut down the Marlins through seven innings, only allowing six hits and an intentional walk while striking out eight. The 31-year-old veteran further increased his trade stock by lowering his ERA to 2.53 while his 0.88 WHIP ranks third in Major League Baseball.
Hammel hasn't allowed a run in 14 innings and has not given up a homer in his last 51 2/3 innings.
"I'm obviously very confident in my stuff right now, trusting it and having a good gameplan," he said. "These right-handed heavy lineups that I'm getting lately, I have the advantage."
During this four-game winning streak, Cubs starters have worked around several jams, but have only allowed four earned runs in 21 2/3 innings (1.66 ERA).
"Anytime we give any of our starters the ball, I expect they'll go out there and give us a strong outing," Renteria said. "Obviously, every time Hammy has gone out there, he's had really good command. He's attacked the strike zone. He's a veteran pitcher who knows what he's doing, and he goes out there and does it.
"(The strong starting pitching) and the fact when you can put some runs across the board, especially middle-late in a ballgame, it makes a difference. I know it's cliche, but timely hitting and good pitching and defense (is the key)."
The Cubs got some timely hitting from other guys not named Rizzo Friday. Nate Schierholtz broke up Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi's perfect-game bid in the fifth with a single up the middle and later scored on Chris Coghlan's two-out double. Rizzo's double in the eighth provided some vital padding and it turned out the Cubs needed every bit of those runs as Rondon allowed the Marlins to plate three runs on four soft singles in the ninth. Ex-Cub Reed Johnson had the big blow with a two-out, two-run single.
The Cubs bullpen sparkled apart from Rondon's outing, as Wesley Wright, Neil Ramirez, Brian Schlitter and Carlos Villanueva allowed just two baserunners with seven strikeouts in a combined five innings. Villanueva pitched two perfect innings to pick up the win.
"They're playing with a lot of confidence right now," Renteria said of his team overall. "They continue to pick each other up. They're starting to feel and know that they can do this.
"You don't want every game to be like this. But they're doing it right now, so we'll take it."