CHICAGO – The Miami Marlins just kept fighting. When Kyle Hendricks finally stumbled, they pounced.
This group of Marlins is one resilient bunch of fish.
Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer off a fading Hendricks in the seventh inning, and Miami beat the Chicago Cubs 5-1 on Wednesday in Game 1 of their NL wild-card series.
Jesús Aguilar also homered and Sandy Alcantara pitched three-hit ball into the seventh as Miami conjured up memories of past playoff magic in the franchise's first postseason game since it won the World Series in 2003. The Marlins, who rallied past the Cubs in a memorable NLCS that year, have never lost a playoff series.
This year's Marlins weren't supposed to make the playoffs, not after losing 105 games in 2019 and dealing with a coronavirus outbreak early this season. Dickerson said all the adversity helped turn them into a better team.
“We don't care about who's the hero,” he said. “We want to pass the bat to the next guy. ... We don't care. We want to cheer for one another, play for one another. That's what makes this game fun.”
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Thursday. Yu Darvish starts for the Central champion Cubs, and rookie right-hander Sixto Sánchez get the ball for upstart Miami.
“We’ve got to come in tomorrow and find a way. That’s it,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
The Marlins could be without center fielder Starling Marte after he had his left hand broken by a fastball in the ninth inning. The team says Marte has a non-displaced fracture of his fifth metacarpal. Miami is optimistic and is still considering him day to day.
Marte got the start after he was hit on the front of his helmet by a fastball during Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Yankees.
“He's been like a target almost,” manager Don Mattingly said. “But he's been bouncing back from everything else so hopefully we get good results with everything and we'll see where he's at.”
Miami was 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position before Dickerson drove Hendricks' 106th pitch just over the wall in left-center for his first career playoff homer, erasing the Cubs' 1-0 lead on a cool, blustery afternoon.
After Hendricks was pulled by first-year manager David Ross, Marte singled and Aguilar hit a drive to right off Jeremy Jeffress for his third playoff homer.
“I’ve been feeling so strong at the end of games,” Hendricks said. “I was making good pitches and I made good pitches to Dickerson all day long. That’s wasn’t a bad pitch. He just jumped on it.”
The last time the Marlins scored five or more runs in an inning during a playoff game was Oct. 14, 2003, at Wrigley Field, when the club scored eight times in the eighth during Game 6 of the NLCS. That outburst included fan Steve Bartman deflecting Luis Castillo’s foul ball as Cubs left fielder Moises Alou tried to make a leaping catch.
There was only a smattering of onlookers — primarily fans and team employees — Wednesday because of baseball's COVID-19 protocols, and the lower bowl that surrounds the field was almost completely empty.
Hendricks (0-1) matched a season high with 106 pitches in his first start in a week. Known for his pinpoint control, the right-hander issued a season-high three walks and hit a batter. He had permitted just two hits before the Marlins chased him with three in a row in the seventh, culminating in Dickerson's one-out homer.
“It’s tough. The guy pitched really good and that was going to be his last batter regardless,” Ross said. “That’s a a tough pull, but you know, it stinks.”
Alcantara (1-0) struck out four and walked three in 6 2/3 innings in his first career playoff start.
Chicago got its only run on Ian Happ's two-out drive in the fifth for his first postseason homer. Happ had two of the Cubs' four hits.
Marlins: RHP José Ureña was placed on the team's taxi squad. Ureña broke his right forearm when he was hit by a line drive Sunday at New York.
Cubs: INF Ildemaro Vargas was activated from the 10-day injured list after missing the last part of the season with a right hamstring strain.
Sánchez, one of baseball's top prospects, made his big league debt on Aug. 22. Game 2 will be his first start at Wrigley.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about the history of the ballpark, but I know I will be pitching against the Cubs,” he said through a translator. “It’s going to be great.”
Darvish is making his first playoff appearance since signing with Chicago before the 2018 season. He is 2-4 with a 5.81 ERA in six career postseason starts.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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