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.