Jesus Luzardo’s pitch count started to run high and his leash was probably getting short. He had lost an 11-pitch battle with Patrick Wisdom with one out in the seventh inning when pitching Mel Stottlemyre Jr. made a quick visit to the mound.
At that point, Luzardo once again buckled down. He got Nico Hoerner to pop out in foul territory before striking out Ian Happ on four pitches.
Luzardo punched his left hand into his glove twice and let out a yell of excitement as he walked back to the dugout with his best start since joining the Miami Marlins — and arguably the best start of his young MLB career — completed.
The 24-year-old lefty threw seven shutout, one-hit innings to lead the Marlins to a 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday at Wrigley Field to avoid a series sweep. The game started 56 minutes late due to inclement weather. Miami improves to 49-59 on the season. Chicago falls to 43-64.
“I try to keep my emotions in check, but sometimes it gets a little difficult,” Luzardo said through a smile.
The performance was worthy of the celebration.
It was just the second time in Luzardo’s MLB career that he pitched seven innings. The other time came on Sept. 9, 2020, while he was with the Oakland Athletics. Luzardo allowed two runs in that game on a pair of solo home runs.
On Sunday? No runs scored on his watch. In fact, no Cubs hitter got into scoring position against him.
Chicago only had three runners reach base against Luzardo — Seiya Suzuki on a Joey Wendle fielding error with two outs in the first, Yan Gomes on a two-out single in the fifth and Wisdom with his seventh-inning walk.
And a reminder: This was just Luzardo’s second start back with the Marlins after missing two-and-a-half months with a left forearm strain.
Luzardo was off to a strong start prior to the injury, going at least five innings while allowing no more than two earned runs in four of his first six starts.
He allowed two hits over five innings in his return on Monday before pitching his seven shutout innings on Sunday. It’s the continuation of the growth the Marlins were hoping to see when they acquired him from Oakland in the Starling Marte trade last season.
“He got on top of his delivery,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s throwing the ball in the strike zone. He’s not beating himself. He’s making teams beat him. His stuff’s good enough that you’re just not going to go out there and throw up a bunch of hits against Jesus.”
The Marlins gave Luzardo all the offense he needed in the fifth inning, when Jacob Stallings and Peyton Brudick hit back-to-back home runs against Cubs starter Adrian Sampson.
Stallings’ two-run shot went a projected 370 feet to left field and came after Charles Leblanc led off the inning with a double. Burdick’s home run — the first of his MLB career — came one pitch later and went an estimated 421 feet to left-center field.
It’s the sixth time this season the Marlins have hit home runs in consecutive at-bats, but just the first time since June 22.
“Kind of got that monkey off our backs a little bit,” Stallings said of his home run. “And then Peyton obviously follows me up. That just kind of energizes everybody even more and gave our pitchers room to be a little more aggressive in the strike zone than if it was a one- or two-run game.”
Anthony Bender pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Tanner Scott shut the Cubs down in the ninth for his 15th save of the season.
This and that
▪ Leblanc finished the game with a career-high three hits and has safely reached base in each of his first eight games since making his debut on July 30. He is hitting .444 with four doubles, one home run and four runs in this stretch.
▪ Left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers (back spasms) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with the Double A Pensacola Blue Wahoos on Tuesday.
The Marlins have an off day Monday before beginning a three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.
Braxton Garrett (2-5, 3.88 ERA) is on the mound for the Marlins on Tuesday opposite Zack Wheeler (10-5, 2.69), Sandy Alcantara (10-4, 1.88) faces Noah Syndergaard (6-8, 4.02) on Wednesday, and Edward Cabrera (2-1, 2.61) goes against Kyle Gibson (7-4, 4.36) in the finale on Thursday.
Miami is 4-6 against Philadelphia so far this season.