Cubs find Florida sun to their liking with two-game sweep of Marlins
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org May 19, 2011 11:50PM
Updated: May 20, 2011 11:27AM
MIAMI — Apparently the Cubs’ recent woes involved some kind of Vitamin-D deficiency or seasonal affective disorder.
All they seemed to need to shake their blues was to get out of the rainy, cloudy climes of the Midwest and soak up some Florida sun.
Just like that, they hit a few home runs, played back-to-back errorless games and left South Florida with their first series sweep of the season, albeit, a two-gamer secured with a 5-1 victory Thursday night.
“It didn’t hurt, apparently,” manager Mike Quade said of getting off the soggy schneid and playing in dry, sunny weather.
“You try not to use cold weather as an excuse. You don’t want to make excuses at all,” said center fielder Marlon Byrd, whose two-hit night included his second big homer in as many games, a two-run shot in the fourth for a 3-0 lead. “But that’s why baseball’s played in the summer.”
Starlin Castro also had a pair of hits, including a two-out, two-run double in the ninth that “was as big as any in the game,” Quade said.
It all backed the gutsy pitching of Casey Coleman (2-3), who navigated around five walks, including back-to-back walks in the first and sixth, to pitch 52⁄3 scoreless innings.
“Casey was something, man,” Quade said. “He just wouldn’t give in.”
The slightly built control pitcher also seemed to find another gear in that final inning, when Quade said his typically modest fastball elevated to 90-92 mph.
“I’m still battling control issues,” Coleman said. “In some ways, I consider myself lucky. But you have to make pitches, no matter what the situation is, and I felt like I did that for the most part.”
As for Byrd, he was slumping coming into the series with five consecutive strikeouts through his first at-bat Wednesday. But after fly balls to right in his next two at-bats that night, he hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth in a 7-5 victory.
After his homer and double Thursday, he’s riding a 3-for-5 power surge into the hyped series at Fenway Park, where he’s a lifetime .378 hitter.
“I’ve been searching for it and started thinking too much,” Byrd said of the slump. “I don’t stop working, and we’ve got the best hitting coach in the game. I knew at some point I’m going to start hitting.”
Now the Cubs head to Boston looking for a third straight win for the first time this season. They’ll try to do it against a resurgent Red Sox team that has a winning record after a 2-10 start.
“It’s always fun going to Boston, always fun playing a great team,” Byrd said. “And we have guys on this team that have played there. [Alfonso] Soriano’s been there. [Ryan] Dempster’s been there. [Matt] Garza and now [Carlos] Pena. It’s not anything where we’re going to be afraid or nervous.
``But it doesn’t get any easier. We face [Jon] Lester tomorrow, who I think is one of the best lefties in the game.”
Quade said he has a lot of friends making special trips to Boston for the matchup, which hasn’t happened at Fenway since Babe Ruth helped the Red Sox beat the Cubs in the 1918 World Series. Many of the players and coaches also are making it a family trip.
“A lot of people I respect are really excited about it,” Quade said. “I am, too, to a certain extent. But it’s about a baseball game first. As many times as I’ve been at Fenway, it’s still fun to walk in there and look around and say, ‘Wow.’ Hopefully, the `wow’ won’t last as long.”