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TB@MIA: Alvarez goes the distance in 1-0 win

In the series finale on Sunday afternoon, the Marlins will be looking for another impressive start from Henderson Alvarez, while the Cubs' are banking on their bullpen to continue providing strong relief.

Alvarez, who is extremely athletic, yet a bit offbeat on the mound, is coming off his third shutout of the season. The right-hander breezed past Tampa Bay in his last outing, needing just 88 pitches to go the distance.

The Cubs are countering with right-hander Jake Arrieta in the 1:20 p.m. CT start at Wrigley Field.

At home, Alvarez is 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA, compared to an 0-2 (4.13) road mark.

"This is a guy, when he's on and his stuff is sharp, he's as good as anybody," Miami manager Mike Redmond said. "He gets a ton of ground balls. He commands that fastball really well. I think the key with him is to just be down in the zone. When he's down in the zone, he gets a lot of ground balls, and he's very effective. He gets a lot of quick outs."

"He's a great fielder. He fields his position as well as any pitcher I think I've ever seen. He's athletic out there. That gets him a lot of outs, because he can field his position, and he can hit."

The Cubs have been getting solid starting pitching. Their bullpen has a different look now too.

The team has moved on since it designated projected closer Jose Veras for assignment on Monday. In Spring Training, Veras was expected to anchor the bullpen, but Hector Rondon took over. Even though his time with the team was brief, Veras had an impact on the young pitchers, including Rondon, who called Veras "our papa."

"He helped in any situation," Rondon said. "It's like [Carlos Villanueva] -- we talk to him in the bullpen about what pitches to throw in certain situations. [Veras] helped me a lot. In the short time he was here, he helped me a lot."

The Cubs 'pen has done well, entering Sunday's game with a 2.01 ERA (18 earned runs over 80 2/3 innings). They've struck out 70 batters and held opponents to a .196 average (57-for-291).

"Having power arms is really an advantage, but you still have to execute," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Big league hitters will still catch up to good fastballs and pitches they can handle. You still need to be able to execute. That's part of the lesson."

And that's something young Cubs pitchers such as Rondon, Justin Grimm, Brian Schlitter and Neil Ramirez are still learning. Veras made a point of saying goodbye to the Cubs players and thanking them. The young pitchers owe Veras for his help, too.

"I told him to keep his head up and keep working," Rondon said. "This game is really tough. He's not the first person to have that happen to him. It's good for him to go home, relax and find another team to pitch for."

Cubs: Keeping count
Arrieta will be making his seventh start, and the team can only hope he can keep his pitch count in check. In his last outing against the Mets, Arrieta threw 105 pitches over 4 2/3 innings.

"When we went out there [in the fifth], he said, 'I wasn't very efficient today,'" Renteria said of Arrieta. "These guys all understand that there are a lot of things we monitor and we're mindful of. Fortunately for us, the relief we have really does a very good job and has been doing a very good job and kept us in ballgames."

The Cubs have kept Arrieta in check since he arrived in Spring Training with some tightness in his shoulder. The plan is to not over-extend him, but he also needs to be more efficient. In his last outing, the leadoff batter reached in four of Arrieta's five innings and he threw 30 pitches in the third.

What was encouraging was that Arrieta gave up one run in his abbreviated outing.

"You're gong to take the mound several times throughout the year and have to have outings like that to keep the team in the ballgame," Arrieta said. "A couple years ago, I probably would've given up four, five runs in an outing like tonight. The progress is important for me to remind myself moving forward and use that to build on for future reference."

Marlins: Fourth anniversary for Stanton
June 8, 2010 is a memorable date because it marked the big league debut of Giancarlo Stanton. At age 20, Stanton was called up from Double-A, and he had three singles in his debut at Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old has made his impact with his immense power. Entering Saturday, Stanton racked up 134 home runs in his career.

Since that day four years ago, Stanton has the third-most home runs in the Majors. Only Miguel Cabrera (150) and Jose Bautista (149) have more in that span.

In Marlins' history, Stanton ranks fifth all-time in home runs. He is closing in on Cabrera, who had 138 in his tenure in South Florida.

Dan Uggla (154) is the franchise home run leader, followed by Hanley Ramirez (148) and Mike Lowell (143).

Worth noting:
• Miami catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, on the seven-day concussion list, is expected to be transferred to the 15-day disabled list.

Redmond said Saltalamacchia is showing improvement. He's gone two or three days without any symptoms. Once cleared to play, the 29-year-old will go on a brief rehab assignment in Jupiter, Fla., to get some game experience.

• Emilio Bonifacio belted a two-run homer in the Cubs' 5-2 win on Saturday. The shot snapped a string of 412 at-bats without a blast dating back to July 30, 2013. It was the longest active drought in the Majors by a position player.

• Junior Lake had his second career multi-homer game, with the other coming on Aug. 1, 2013 against the Dodgers.

• Garrett Jones is batting .357 (15-for-42) over his last 11 road games.

• Casey McGehee, who drove in a run on a groundout on Saturday, leads all National League third basemen with 38 RBIs this season.

• Sunday will feature throwback uniforms for both teams. Chicago is set to sport a retro 1942 Cubs uniform, while the Marlins wear a 1940s-inspired Miami Sun Sox opponent uniform. Comments