Cubs-Marlins preview

MIAMI -- There's really only one of two ways this can end for the Chicago Cubs this year.

They can become the baseball version of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, enjoying a brilliant regular season but ultimately failing to win the championship.

Or they can become the baseball version of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, ending an epic championship drought.

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With the Cubbies' history -- most of it bad -- the smart money is on them coming up short again.

Then again, the Cavaliers and Boston Red Sox are among teams to end frustratingly long droughts in recent years.

Entering Friday's game against the Miami Marlins, the Cubs are facing the most adversity they have all year. They have lost four games in a row, the longest skid of their otherwise outstanding season.

The Cubs have scored nine runs in those four losses and are dealing with some injuries, most notably to catcher Miguel Montero (knee) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (back). Both sat out Thursday but are not on the disabled list.

That means they could return soon to help a lineup that suddenly seems vulnerable after the top three of Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant.

Rookie Wilson Contreras is a great prospect, but may not be quite ready to hit cleanup as he did Thursday.

The Cubs also have center fielder Dexter Fowler on the disabled list along with valuable hitters Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella.

Chicago, though, has the type of starting pitching that should prohibit long losing streaks. Kyle Hendricks (5-6, 2.94 ERA) takes the ball Friday and opposes Miami's Tom Koehler (6-6, 3.92 ERA).

Don't expect this losing streak to last long.

"We're just not scoring runs lately," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said after a 4-2 loss to Miami on Thursday. "We played a great game until we made some mistakes in the eighth.

"But while we are getting healthy, some guys are getting opportunities. We are just not as formidable offensively up and down the lineup."

Other story-lines to look for on Friday:

--Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has 2,983 career hits, four behind Sam Rice for 30th place on the career list. Suzuki, a backup, was not in Thursday's lineup.

--Dating to last season, Marlins RHP A.J. Ramos has 32 consecutive saves, one behind Steve Cishek for the franchise record. Ramos was rested Thursday but should be ready Friday.

--The Marlins are 4-1 when shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria leads off as he did on Thursday.