Blasts back Nolasco in victory over Cubs

Blasts back Nolasco in victory over Cubs

CHICAGO -- Returning to the site of his first career victory, Ricky Nolasco was able to get back on the winning track.

Taking advantage of limited run support -- courtesy of home runs by Cody Ross and Gaby Sanchez -- Nolasco tossed seven strong innings in the Marlins' 3-2 victory over the Cubs in front of 38,007 at Wrigley Field.

On a 48-degree night -- the coldest start time of the season for Florida -- the Marlins secured a series victory over the Cubs. Now they are in position for a sweep on Wednesday afternoon. The Marlins have not won three in a row this season.

"When you've got Ricky on the mound, you know you can score three runs and probably win because he's such a great pitcher," said Sanchez, whose solo home run in the third inning proved to be the difference. "It would be nice to get six or seven, but sometimes all you need are three."

Nolasco (3-2) had dropped two straight decisions by allowing one run in seven innings. He matched a season low with three strikeouts, but he walked one, and relied on his defense, which played a solid game. Commanding the strike zone, of his 95 pitches, 69 were strikes.

The biggest pitch of the game, however, was the 28th and final toss by rookie reliever Chris Leroux in the eighth inning. After yielding a run on Marlon Byrd's sacrifice fly to right, Derrek Lee's double put runners on second and third. But Leroux struck out Aramis Ramirez with a 2-2 fastball, capping a nine-pitch showdown.

Earlier in the sequence, Ramirez lined a slider deep but foul to left. And Lee's double came on a full-count slider that was up. So Leroux was determined not to throw another slider, and he eventually got Ramirez on an elevated 94-mph fastball. The ball was tipped, but catcher John Baker held on for the third out.

"After he hit that foul ball down the line, he was thinking I was going to come back with a slider, so I had to come back with a fastball again," Leroux said.

Before the game-saving pitch, Baker had gone to the mound to settle the hard-throwing rookie.

"Mainly, I was trying to calm him down," Baker said. "He was getting a little excited. The 3-2 pitch to Derrek Lee, he left a breaking ball up because he was trying to overthrow it. He had a good fastball tonight. I think that Ramirez was getting closer, closer and closer. I called time out and tried to slow the tempo down a little bit -- settle him down a little bit.

"I was thinking maybe Ramirez was thinking slider a little bit after seeing so many fastballs in a row. He elevated the fastball and threw it where he was supposed to throw it, and he got the strikeout."

In a tightly pitched game, Nolasco won for the first time since April 24 at Colorado. Chicago right-hander Randy Wells struck out eight in eight innings, but he was victimized by two home runs, which accounted for most of the Marlins' offense.

"It's always a lot of fun to pitch in here," said Nolasco, who was groomed in the Cubs' system before being traded to the Marlins as part of the Juan Pierre deal. "You get a lot of adrenaline going. It's a really good atmosphere with the fans. I really enjoy pitching here."

As a rookie in 2006, Nolasco collected his first big league victory at Wrigley Field, tossing two innings of relief. Now, a rising talent in the National League, Nolasco's career mark is 43-32.

With his 43 wins, Nolasco moves past Ryan Dempster (42) for the fourth-most victories in Marlins history.

"It's big for us to win two in a row right now -- we need it," Nolasco said. "We haven't been playing the way we could. I think we played a good overall game. It was a good team effort. You hope it carries over tomorrow."

Leo Nunez worked a perfect ninth inning for his seventh save, and second in as many days.

Until Tuesday, the Marlins hadn't scored first in 10 straight games. They currently haven't scored in the first inning in 11 consecutive games.

Held hitless through five innings on Monday, the Marlins got their offense going a little earlier on Tuesday. With one out in the second inning, Dan Uggla walked and Ross connected on a two-out, two-run homer to left. Ross had gone 86 at-bats between home runs.

The Marlins' second hit also sailed over the green ivy-covered outfield wall. Sanchez connected on a two-out, solo shot to left-center, marking the rookie's first home run at Wrigley Field.

"It's fun to hit one in any ballpark," said Sanchez, who has three on the season. "It was one of those things where I was looking for a fastball I could do something with. I was able to get it and put a good swing on it.

Nolasco held the Cubs scoreless until the sixth, when Lee was credited with an RBI double on a ball that turned Ross around in right field near the wall. Marlon Byrd scored from first on Lee's double, which capped a seven-pitch at-bat.

"Ricky threw very well today. He probably shouldn't have given up a run," Gonzalez said. "The 'Friendly Confines' got to Cody a little bit, with the wind, and that ball dropped in there. Ricky was very good."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.