MIAMI -- The Cubs' vaunted rotation didn't shut down the Marlins in the four-game Opening Series and the offense sputtered, but manager Joe Maddon remained optimistic.
"There's no disappointment whatsoever," Maddon said Sunday after Chicago was blanked, 6-0, by Miami to split the series at Marlins Park. "Give the Marlins credit for playing really well. I'm always accused of being an optimist, but I'm not disappointed. I thought we did a lot of good things today without a victory."
The Cubs hit the ball hard, but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and finished the four games 7-for-47 with RISP. None of the first four starters got a win. Jonathan Lester and Yu Darvish both had abbreviated outings, yet the Cubs won those games. Kyle Hendricks threw six innings in Friday's 17-inning marathon, while Jose Quintana pitched six innings on Sunday, giving up six runs.
Chicago's starting rotation now has a 6.86 ERA in the first four games.
"Our starting pitching has not been as good as it can be," Maddon said. "The bullpen is totally overtaxed, and they did a great job. [Kyle] Schwarber looks good, [Addison] Russell looks good, [Anthony Rizzo] is not getting the hits, but I still like what I see. [Kris] Bryant looks really good. [Ben] Zobrist is swinging really good. [Jason] Heyward is outstanding. I like what I see now."
The Cubs have reached the National League Championship Series in each the last three years, so naturally the expectations are high heading into this season. Any loss is magnified even if the calendar just turned to April. Is Rizzo disappointed at the 2-2 start?
"Not at all," Rizzo said. "It's not easy facing guys you don't see. Every pitcher you see, it's the first, second time facing them, and they have plus stuff. Until you get in the flow of things and get all those at-bats under your belt, it's not easy to do."
Quintana looked as if he had that edge, holding the Marlins hitless over the first four innings. But Miami sent eight batters to the plate in the fifth, scoring five runs against the lefty. The big hits were Chad Wallach's RBI single that skipped past Rizzo and Brian Anderson's two-out, three-run double.
"The whole game changed in one inning," Quintana said. "A couple ground balls and the double to Anderson -- I think that [pitch] was a little up. It happened and it's frustrating."
The Cubs needed Quintana to go deep after back-to-back extra-inning games, and he did last six innings, with Brian Duensing handling the final two. That will help.
"In this series, it's been tough with the couple of extra-inning games," Quintana said. "I tried to do more to save the bullpen. It is what it is."
The Cubs relievers were the heroes in the series. They gave up two runs over 24 innings for a 0.75 ERA.
Maddon and Co. head to Cincinnati for the start of a nine-game stretch against their NL Central rivals feeling good about their team.
"Quite frankly, we could not have hit the ball better than we did," Maddon said of Sunday's game. "That's the most incredible shutout I've ever seen in my life. Give their defense a lot of credit. They covered a lot of ground in the outfield; they made some plays in the infield. For zero points, you cannot hit the ball any better than we did. That might have been the best-hit shutout I've ever seen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Glovework: Russell put on a show at shortstop. He made a sliding grab on the grass to get Garrett Cooper's hard-hit ball in the second, then made another dazzling grab to rob Yadiel Rivera of a potential hit in the fifth. He also doubled with two outs in the Chicago fifth but was stranded.
Missed opportunities: The Cubs threatened against Marlins starter Dillon Peters in the fourth. Schwarber doubled to open the inning and reached third on Victor Caratini's groundout. Jason Heyward was safe on an infield single, but Javier Baez missed a sign and tried to bunt. Schwarber was caught in a rundown. Quintana then struck out to end the potential rally.
"We just didn't score runs today, that's all. I had an opportunity there and popped the ball up. Our at-bats were really good and we hit the ball really well, but it didn't fall. That's the way it goes." -- Rizzo
"In here, in house, we believe. We feel like we could have taken three, maybe four games. We were in every game, from the very first game. Again, the way we play with energy and the way we play for each other, the way we held each other accountable [helped us win]." -- Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Bryant recorded a hit in each game of the series and is 7-for-18 this season.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Anderson cleared the bases, driving home three runs with his line drive to right-center with two outs in the fifth inning off Quintana. The question was whether Anderson would have a three-run double or triple. While stretching it to third, Anderson was called out. The Marlins challenged, and after a review of one minute and 52 seconds, the ruling on the field was upheld.
Cubs:Tyler Chatwood will make his Cubs debut on Monday when they open a brief two-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Chatwood is 0-3 in four career starts vs. the Reds. He has not pitched in Cincinnati since June 2013. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. CT.
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