Cubs turn to Alec Mills vs. Marlins as Chicago looks to end skid

MLB

The most recent time the Chicago Cubs won a game, Alec Mills earned a 3-2 win over the Colorado Rockies.

That was on Aug. 4.

On Sunday afternoon, Mills (5-4, 4.27 ERA) will be the starter against the host Miami Marlins as the Cubs attempt to snap their 10-game losing streak.

It is Chicago’s second double-digit losing streak in less than two months.

The Cubs, who are one loss away from getting swept for a third straight series, are relying on a good start from Mills, who is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in five innings in one career start against the Marlins.

Mills, 29, is an unlikely hero. The native of Clarksville, Tenn., wasn’t a scholarship player in college. He wasn’t even a preferred walk-on. In fact, he was an unknown in his own state when — already enrolled at Tennessee-Martin — he walked into the coach’s office and asked for a tryout.

The rest is history, including Mills’ no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers last Sept. 13.

“It was a lot of fun,” Mills said of the no-hitter. “The big thing was seeing everybody else celebrating and having fun.”

There’s not much fun for Cubs fans this year. The team has traded its biggest stars – Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Craig Kimbrel — and a full-blown reconstruction is underway.

It remains to be seen if Mills will be a core part of the rebuild. He has some wild ERA splits this year between home (3.06), away (5.45), starting pitching (3.46) and relief (6.41). He has made 11 starts and 12 relief appearances, so it appears the Cubs aren’t sure where he fits yet.

Meanwhile, the Marlins, who are tied for last place with the Washington Nationals in the National League East, have not announced their Sunday starter. They have won three straight games for the first time since July 24-27. The Marlins haven’t had a four-game win streak since early May.

Elieser Hernandez, who hasn’t pitched for the Marlins since June 3 due to a strained right quadriceps, could get the start on Sunday. He struck out 10 in a 62-pitch, five-inning rehab start at Triple-A Jacksonville on Tuesday. He was with the Marlins on Friday, throwing a bullpen session, and that could put him in line to start Sunday.

Hernandez (0-0, 3.68) has pitched only twice in the majors this year, but he went 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts last season. He has yet to face the Cubs in his career.

Offensively, the Marlins are getting production from some young outfielders. Earlier this year, the Marlins traded their starting outfield of Corey Dickerson in left, Starling Marte in center and Adam Duvall in right.

Stepping up in their absences have been players such as center fielder Lewis Brinson, who had struggled over the past four years but has been on a hot streak in the second half of this season.

Brinson, demoted to the minors three times this season, had a career batting average of .192 as of July 22. But in the second half of this season, he is batting .348. For the season, he is at .275 in 138 at-bats.

Brinson’s surge has come just in time because this is his last year with minor-league options. Next year, he cannot be optioned to the minors without first being exposed to a waiver claim by any other MLB team.

“Lew never quit on himself,” said James Rowson, who acted as Miami’s interim manager until Don Mattingly came back on Friday from a COVID-19 absence. “Lew never quit on his ability.

“He believes in himself. He kept working, and now his confidence is growing.”

–Field Level Media

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