MIAMI -- Things had been falling into place for the Cubs lately. Good starting pitching, coupled with clutch hitting, had resulted in five wins over their previous six games. But one of those trends did not continue on Friday in a 2-0 loss to the Marlins.
Though starting pitcher John Lackey (5-8) was able to do his part on the mound, it was the Cubs' bats that went silent. Lackey allowed just two runs (one earned) on three hits in six innings, making it nine out of the last 10 games in which a Cubs starter allowed two earned runs or fewer. Coming into the game, Chicago was 25-11 when starting pitchers worked a minimum of six innings this season, and the winner in eight of the last nine such occasions.
"The last week or two, I feel we've definitely pitched well," Lackey said. "We won a couple of low-scoring games where we had to pitch well there. That's where it starts for sure. If you're going to be a consistent winning team, you've got to have good starting pitching. The offense can kind of come and go, and it makes it easier with a good pitching staff."
Coming into the game giving up 2.21 homers per nine innings -- the second-highest rate in the National League -- Lackey gave up a third-inning home run to Giancarlo Stanton, but little else.
"I was really impressed with him tonight," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was really sharp. He was outstanding. I didn't want to take him out of the game. His fastball had really good carry. He was throwing it where he wanted to. The slider was good."
Retiring the side in order in three of his six innings, Lackey turned in his second consecutive quality start (91 pitches, 64 strikes), third in five starts, and fifth overall this season.
"Just a well-pitched game, both ways," said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. "Jose [Urena] was really good. I thought Lackey was good today, kept us off-balance."
Shut out for the sixth time this season, the Cubs never got anything going on offense. Hitting .317 (26-for-82) with runners in scoring position over its previous nine games, Chicago came up empty in four opportunities on Friday.
"We had a couple of opportunities but didn't get it done," Maddon said. "That's part of the game. Double plays continue to hurt us. We hit into way too many double plays."
The Cubs hit into three twin killings over the final four innings.
"Part of it is you could hit and run, but then again you have a lot of guys that swing and miss a lot," Maddon said.
Only once did the Cubs get a runner as far as third base. Kristopher Bryant walked and moved to third on a single by Ian Happ, but he ultimately became one of seven runners left on base.
"They're still pretty young," Lackey said of the Cubs' lineup. "So there are a lot of guys still learning, still making adjustments in the game. But the talent is there. We like our chances in the end for those guys to do good stuff."