MIAMI — Ryan Dempster threw much better to the plate than to first base.
The hard-luck right-hander gave up two unearned runs after he made a wild throw, and he remained winless since Aug. 16 when the Chicago Cubs lost to the Miami Marlins 5-2 Tuesday night.
"I wish I could have thrown the ball better to first base," Dempster said. "The results would have probably been different. I just reached for it and made a bad throw."
Dempster, winless in his past 12 starts, lowered his ERA to 1.33 in three games this year. He struck out eight, walked two, allowed four hits and left after six innings with the score 2-all.
"It's probably as good as you'll ever see him throw a baseball," manager Dale Sveum said. "He made two mistakes in the whole game pitch-wise. His cutter was almost as hard as his fastball. His split finger was ridiculous. Yeah, that was as good as you're going to pitch."
But the Cubs, who fell to 3-8, hit into four double plays. They've scored a total of four runs in Dempster's three starts.
"It's unfortunate," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "As an offense you want to pick up your pitchers that are throwing so well."
Barney had three of the Cubs' seven hits, but he also committed a costly error in the Marlins' three-run eighth.
Miami manager Ozzie Guillen made a victorious return to the dugout, and pitchers Josh Johnson and Heath Bell snapped out of early-season slumps.
Guillen returned from a five-game suspension imposed after his comments praising Fidel Castro caused a backlash in South Florida, especially among Cuban Americans.
When the dugout emptied and Guillen joined his players on the field for the postgame celebration, there were only cheers from the crowd.
"It was great to perform and hug Ozzie again," Bell said. "We really want to win for him and try to put all that other stuff behind him."
Johnson allowed two runs in seven innings and Bell earned the save after four rocky outings. Hanley Ramirez broke a 2-all tie with a three-run homer in the eighth, his third.
The game was tied at 2 when Jose Reyes reached on an error by Barney to start the Miami eighth.
"It seems like when something like that happens, something bad is going to happen," Barney said. "It was just not a good way to start that inning. It's my fault."
Reyes took second on a passed ball and Emilio Bonifacio walked. Ramirez, who had a game-ending single in the 11th inning Sunday, followed with a homer off Rafael Dolis (0-1).
Ramirez has gone 8 for 12 in the past three games to hike his average from .133 to .286.
Announced attendance was 24,544, by far the smallest in five games at the Marlins' new ballpark.
"It's 20,000 more than they used to get," said Dempster, who played for the Florida Marlins from 1998 to 2002. "I think that's what they're looking for. I'm happy for the Marlins fans. It's a nice baseball park to come to. I know what it's like to play in front of nobody. On a Tuesday night to fit that many people out here, if they do well I'm sure they'll get more."
With the retractable roof open on a 76-degree night, both teams struggled for runs much of the way. The Marlins went 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
Johnson had a solid outing for the first time in three starts, lowering his ERA from 8.38 to 5.94. Steve Cishek (1-0) pitched a hitless eighth and has yet to allow run in eight games.
Bell, an All-Star closer acquired during the Marlins' offseason spending binge, pitched a perfect ninth for his first save in three chances.
NOTES: The Cubs' Marlon Byrd went 0 for 3 and is off to a 2-for-34 start (.059). ... Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton was dropped to sixth in the order and remains without a homer in 38 at-bats. ... The Cubs won't face former teammate Carlos Zambrano in the series. He's slated to start Friday at Washington. ... Marlins Park is the 119th ballpark in which the Cubs have played.