The veteran right-hander looks to continue his strong start while trying to help the visiting Cubs sweep the lowly Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Originally expected to be a stop-gap while starters Matt Garza and Scott Baker recovered from injuries, Villanueva (1-0, 1.53 ERA) has likely found a permanent home in Chicago's rotation. He's allowed five runs - four off solo homers - and struck out 21 with six walks in 29 1-3 innings over four starts.
However, he's been let down by a bullpen that failed to hold leads in three of those outings. That was the case in Tuesday's 4-2, 10-inning win at Cincinnati when Villanueva left with one out in the ninth but was charged with the tying run after Carlos Marmol allowed an RBI single.
"He's been outstanding," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "To stick with a game plan is the ultimate dream for a pitching coach and a manager to be able to say, 'Just do this and you'll get these guys out,' and he's able to pull it off."
Villanueva last faced the Marlins (5-19) out of the bullpen in 2010, but his last start against them came in 2008. He's 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts versus Miami.
He will try to help the Cubs (9-14) complete their first four-game sweep since Aug. 1-4, 2011, at Pittsburgh. Chicago has scored 11 runs in the first three of the set but allowed seven and won two by one run, including 3-2 on Saturday.
The Cubs have yielded 10 runs while winning four of five. That suspect bullpen has not been charged with a run over 12 innings during that stretch.
"The bullpen's been unbelievable this entire road trip,'' said Sveum, whose club is 4-5 on a 10-game trek.
David DeJesus had two hits, including a tiebreaking single in the seventh, to help Chicago to a fifth straight win over Miami. DeJesus is batting .324 (11 for 34) with four RBIs in his last 11 games.
Giancarlo Stanton hit an estimated 472-foot homer, his first of the season, for Miami.
The Marlins were last swept in a four-game home set by St. Louis from Aug. 4-7, 2011.
"We did some good things,'' manager Mike Redmond said, "but I feel like I'm saying the same thing every single night, and I really am, we're right there.''
Stanton, who hit 71 homers the last two seasons, is batting .209, but has recorded all five of his RBIs in the last six contests.
Former Cubs prospect and scheduled Miami starter Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 3.81) is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in seven starts against the team that drafted him in 2001, then traded him in a deal for Juan Pierre in 2005.
The right-hander yielded three runs in five innings of an 8-5 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader on a chilly night at Minnesota on Tuesday for Miami's most recent victory.
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