Despite trading away two high-priced veterans, the Chicago Cubs have managed to produce some positive results of late.
Looking for a fourth consecutive victory, the Cubs return home for the first time since the All-Star break to face the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night.Since losing eight of 10 to open June, Chicago (48-55) is 23-17 and coming off a 6-4 trip that concluded with a three-game sweep of San Francisco. That road run came while the club continued its rebuilding process by dealing Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano."It's not as much of a challenge for me as always making sure you have the depth to fill the voids that happen sometimes," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "We have a lot more depth than we did last year."Chicago managed six runs in San Francisco, but held the reigning World Series champs to three in three one-run wins. All-Star Travis Wood pitched seven strong innings and hit a solo homer in Sunday's 2-1 victory.After Chris Rusin and Wood combined to allow an unearned run and seven hits over 14 innings of the last two games, Jeff Samardzija (6-9, 3.94 ERA) hopes to avoid another subpar outing when he takes the ball Monday.The right-hander was staked to a 6-0 lead after 4 1/2 innings Wednesday, but allowed four runs and matched a season high with five walks in 5 2/3 innings of a 7-6, 12-inning win at Arizona."You just can't walk guys, it brings up your pitch count." said Samardzija, who is 1-2 with a 6.85 ERA and walked 15 in four July starts.He hopes that won't be the case while trying to improve on a 2-4 record and 5.46 ERA in 10 starts this season at Wrigley Field. He is 4-5 in 11 road starts but has a 2.72 ERA.Samardzija dropped to 0-3 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against the Brewers (43-61) after yielding five runs, four on a pair of homers, in seven innings of a 5-4 loss April 19.Milwaukee is 5-3 against the Cubs this season, but lost the final two of a three-game home set to their NL Central rivals last month.The Brewers lost for the fifth time in seven games, 6-5 at Colorado on Sunday. All-Star Carlos Gomez had two hits, and is 12 for 20 in the last five contests after he went 3 for 42 in his previous 12.Gomez is batting .235 (4 for 17) versus Chicago in 2013, but homered off Samardzija.Looking for a third straight winning start, teammate Kyle Lohse (7-7, 3.37) has allowed one run in 13 innings of his last two outings. That run came in seven frames of a 3-1 victory over San Diego on Wednesday."When he is on his game like that, it is a big boost for the team," manager Ron Roenicke said.The right-hander has a 3.15 ERA while winning three straight starts against the Cubs. He gave up a three-run homer to Nate Schierholtz in seven innings of a 9-3 home win over Chicago on June 25.That is one of Schierholtz's two hits in nine at-bats against Lohse. He's 10 for 25 (.400) with three home runs and eight RBIs in his last eight contests overall.
Jeff Samardzija is tied for third in the NL with 84 strikeouts in at-bats ending with a pitch down in the zone and below. Forty nine of those strikeouts have come from his splitter. As a team, the Brewers are 3-for-31 with 12 strikeouts in at-bats ending with a splitter down in the zone and below.