Cubs manager Joe Maddon's decision to lift a dominant Jason Hammel for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning looked dubious when Miguel Montero struck out and Pedro Strop got into trouble in the seventh.
All it took was a big play in the outfield and some 104 mph heat from Aroldis Chapman to give Maddon and the Cubs another win.
Hammel threw six scoreless innings, Dexter Fowler had three hits and Chicago beat Miami ace Jose Fernandez and the Marlins 3-2 on Tuesday night for its third straight victory.
"Today I was a one-pitch pitcher," said Hammel, who allowed four hits and set a career high for wins in a season. "I didn't really have a feel for any of the breaking pitches, curveball and the slider, and I didn't throw any changeups. The fastball played well today."
Hammel (11-5) extended Chicago's scoreless streak to 24 innings before Strop's shaky seventh. Aroldis Chapman hit 104.4 mph on the radar gun in a perfect ninth as the Cubs won for the sixth time in seven games and opened a nine-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central.
"We're playing really good baseball," Maddon said.
Hammel threw 80 pitches before being lifted for a pinch-hitter with the Cubs up 3-0, a move Maddon calls a "National League moment." But Montero struck out with two on.
"We took a shot, it didn't play," Maddon said.
Fernandez (12-6) allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings, losing consecutive starts for the first time since his 2013 rookie season.
"This may sound funny, but I felt strong today," Fernandez said. "I was making good pitches. This is a good team."
Fowler was his nemesis. He led off the first with a triple and scored on catcher Willson Contreras' single. Batting Contreras second worked for Maddon, as Fowler and Contreras had consecutive hits again in the third to produce another run.
"He was involved in almost everything tonight," Maddon said of Fowler.
The center fielder added an RBI single in the fifth off Fernandez, who fanned eight and took over the major league lead with 192 strikeouts.
Adeiny Hechavarria and J.T. Realmuto each hit an RBI single in the seventh off Strop, who also committed a throwing error. Travis Wood replaced him and Chris Coghlan's diving catch of Christian Yelich's looping liner to left field with two on ended the threat.
Former Cubs closer Hector Rondon picked off pinch-runner Dee Gordon from first in a scoreless eighth.
Then Chapman entered and used his blazing fastball to strike out one and earn his second save in three tries since being acquired from the Yankees.
"It's coming out hot, but it's easy when you have that kind of guy throwing a fastball straight," Contreras said. "It's harder when you have 97 (mph) with sink. But I mean, it's unbelievable."
Ichiro Suzuki struck out pinch-hitting for Fernandez in the seventh, leaving him at 2,998 hits. Suzuki is expected to start Wednesday's series finale against RHP John Lackey. Suzuki's 37 hits against Lackey are his most off any pitcher.
Marlins: 1B Justin Bour (ankle) went 0 for 3 for Triple-A New Orleans was expected to play one more minor league rehab game Wednesday before returning Friday at Colorado.
Cubs: Second-year slugger Kris Bryant wasn't in the lineup. "It didn't matter who was pitching today as long as he was right-handed," Maddon said. "I wanted to give him the day off."
Not only did new Cubs reliever Joe Smith go from the struggling Los Angeles Angels to a contender, he's now just a short flight or 4 1/2-hour drive from his ailing mother in Cincinnati. Lee Smith, 56, is battling Huntington's disease, an inherited, fatal disorder that causes cognitive and physical impairment.
"It's nice," Joe Smith said. "Traveling is hard and those flights take a lot out of her."
RHP Spencer Patton was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Smith, acquired Monday.
PHELPS ON FRIDAY
Marlins manager Don Mattingly said RHP David Phelps will move into the rotation and start Friday against the Rockies. He'll replace RHP Colin Rea, who was traded back to San Diego on Monday.
Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (8-8, 4.18 ERA) returns from a pectoral injury and faces Lackey (8-7, 3.69) to close the season series.