Despite having been out of the playoff picture for weeks, the Chicago Cubs are finishing the season strong.
The Cubs look to sweep their second consecutive series and finish a nine-game trip with eight wins in Sunday’s finale against the slumping Florida Marlins.
Since Mike Quade took over as interim manager Aug. 23, Chicago (67-81) has the majors’ third-best record at 16-7 - including an 11-3 mark on the road.
The Cubs opened their current trip by taking two of three in Milwaukee last weekend, then swept a three-game set in St. Louis before arriving in Florida. They beat the Marlins 2-0 in Friday’s series opener and extended their winning streak to a season-best five games with a 5-3 victory Saturday.
Strong pitching is spurring the success for Chicago, which has not had an 8-1 trip in baseball’s modern era. The Cubs have a 1.27 ERA on their current trip, as their starting pitchers have yielded two runs or fewer seven times in the eight games.
Samardzija started the year in the Cubs’ bullpen, but was sent down to the minors after going 0-1 with an 18.30 ERA in 3 1-3 innings. The right-hander was called up from Triple-A Iowa on Monday to fill in for an injured Carlos Silva(notes), and allowed six hits and four walks in 5 2-3 shutout innings in a 5-1 win over the Cardinals.
Samardzija has never started against the Marlins. He has a 4.91 ERA and no decisions in six relief outings against them.
Florida’s heading in the opposite direction of Chicago, having lost five in a row.
The Marlins (73-74), who are trying to avoid falling two games under .500 for the first time since Aug. 17, haven’t dropped six straight since a seven-game skid April 20-27, 2009.
“It’s frustrating. I feel we’re giving great effort but you don’t get Ws for effort,” said rookie Logan Morrison(notes), who had three hits Saturday to extend his streak of reaching base to 37 games. “Hopefully some balls start falling our way soon.”
After being tagged for seven runs and a career-worst 11 hits in a 10-6 loss in Philadelphia on Sept. 8, Miller was knocked around for seven more runs and nine hits - including three homers - in five innings of an 11-4 loss to the Phillies on Monday. The left-hander had yielded two runs over 10 innings in his first two starts since being called up from Double-A Jacksonville.
Miller has made 51 starts over the past five seasons, but this will be his first appearance against the Cubs.
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