The last-place Cubs are not without impact players. Starlin Castro is one of them, and although this season has not been his best, the shortstop is heating up as Chicago's season winds down.
After going 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI in Sunday's 7-1 win over Philadelphia, Castro has at least one hit in eight of his past nine games. Across that span, he is hitting .308 (12-for-39) with three doubles, one home run, four runs scored and five RBIs. Castro has batted leadoff in 11 straight games, after mostly appearing in the two-hole for Chicago this year.
"There's been a lot of [talk] about seeing more pitches and walking more and on-base percentage," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of his conversations with Castro. "As much as anything, that's why I thought I'd get him back in the leadoff spot, the one spot he's most comfortable and had the most success at, and so far he's been driving the ball better and swinging the bat better in that spot."
Castro brings a .242 average into this week's series with Miami at Wrigley Field. The 23-year-old will do his best to continue raising that number in support of Cubs lefty Travis Wood (8-10, 3.09 ERA), who is scheduled to take the hill in Monday's series opener opposite Marlins righty Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.90 ERA).
Wood most recently pitched last Tuesday, when he held the Dodgers to five hits and one unearned run over seven strong innings in Los Angeles. In that outing, Wood outperformed ace Clayton Kershaw and even added a hit and a run to help the offense.
"[Wood] matched [Kershaw], obviously, pitch for pitch, and actually outdid him," Sveum said afterward. "Woody was awesome to go seven innings against that lineup. That was as good of stuff as he's had in a long time. The ball was coming out of his hand really, really well."
The Marlins lost all five of Alvarez's starts in August, during which he went 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA. He last pitched on Wednesday, when rain ended his outing after 1 2/3 innings in Washington. He had allowed three hits and one run while notching three strikeouts.
Miami ended a six-game losing streak with Sunday's 7-0 win over the Braves. The club had also lost 10 of its past 11 games. On Saturday, the Marlins reached the four-run mark in one game for the first time since Aug. 20, but still dropped an 11-inning affair at Turner Field.
"For us, four runs is like 25 runs for some teams," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said afterward. "You've got to try to find a way to win that ballgame. We didn't."
Marlins: Coghlan back with club after disabled-list stint
• On Sunday, Chris Coghlan returned to Miami's active roster for the first time since June 8. An outfielder since 2009, Coghlan has been working at third base, seeing as how the Marlins already have so many outfielders in the organization. No matter where he plays, if Coghlan contributes to the offense, time on the field shouldn't be an issue. In three rehab games, he went 6-for-12.
"I know he's been playing third base down there in the Minor Leagues," Redmond said. "We'll see. I'm still trying to figure out exactly if that's going to be an option. We know he can play in the outfield, and we know he still has value for us as an outfielder."
Coghlan was reinstated from the DL on Sunday after missing close to three months with right calf nerve irritation, an ailment that also caused him back discomfort. A left-handed hitter, he did not start Sunday against Braves lefty Alex Wood and might not be in the lineup Monday against the Cubs' Wood. But he did play on Sunday, replacing Giancarlo Stanton in right field in the seventh inning after Stanton tweaked his right ankle. Coghlan went 0-for-1.
"You've got one month, and you hope to be in there as much as you can and help the team win as much as you can," Coghlan said. "I don't anticipate having any [health] issues. I haven't had any issues in my rehab. I'm good to go, and excited to get an opportunity."
• The Marlins recalled right-hander Chris Hatcher from Triple-A New Orleans and selected the contract of left-hander Zach Phillips, who had also been with the Zephyrs. In the Minors, Hatcher was 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA across 67 1/3 innings and Phillips was 4-2 with a 2.44 ERA over 59 frames.
Cubs: Sweeney, Valbuena, Cabrera added
Chicago on Sunday activated outfielder Ryan Sweeney and third baseman Luis Valbuena from the disabled list and recalled right-hander Alberto Cabrera from Triple-A Iowa. In adding Sweeney to the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated righty Eduardo Sanchez for assignment.
Sweeney is finally healthy after suffering a left rib fracture while slamming into the center-field wall on June 29 in Seattle. At the time, he was hitting .295 with four home runs and 15 RBIs over 44 games.
"To be able to play every day again was huge," Sweeney said of the opportunity he had before the injury. "To have a freak thing happen like that is definitely not something you want to have happen."
Valbuena went on the disabled list on Aug. 4 with a right oblique strain. In 89 games, he was batting .225 with 13 doubles, nine home runs and 31 RBIs.
"I want to finish strong, that's what I'm looking for now," Valbuena said. "Everybody works a lot and everybody's focused to win the last month and have a good record. That's important right now."
On Sunday, Sweeney went 1-for-3 with a run, an RBI and a walk. Valbuena pinch-hit in the eighth inning and drew a bases-loaded walk. As for Cabrera, he went 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 25 relief appearances with the Cubs earlier this season.
• Miami lost three out of four against the Cubs at Marlins Park from April 25-28.
• Chicago has won two home games in a row for the first time since July 6-9, when the club took three straight at Wrigley. Also, the Cubs' recent series victory over Philadelphia was their first at home since July 5-7, when they won two out of three against Pittsburgh.
• Stanton's status for Monday's 2:20 p.m. ET opener vs. the Cubs will be game-time decision.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.