After a brutal couple of weeks, the Chicago Cubs finally got back in the win column over the holiday weekend.
Turning to Jeff Samardzija on his own bobblehead day Tuesday afternoon in the second of three games against the usually soft-hitting San Diego Padres could help the Cubs get on a bit of a roll.
The NL-worst Cubs (16-32), whose 12-game skid was their longest since opening 0-14 in 1997, broke out in a big way during Monday's 11-7 win at Wrigley Field. With the wind blowing out, Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro all went deep and drove in a combined 10 runs to lead Chicago to its first victory since May 14.
"I think now everybody is more relaxed," said Soriano, batting .326 with six homers in his last 13 games. "Now we have to keep doing our jobs and win some games. We have to turn it around. You have to believe in this team because we're not that bad."
The Cubs have plenty of reason to believe in Samardzija (4-3, 3.00 ERA), who has a 1.82 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 39 2-3 innings over his last six starts.
The right-hander's record in that span is just 2-2, however, with the losses coming in his last two outings as the Cubs have scored three total runs for him. He allowed two runs in six innings of Wednesday's 5-1 loss at Houston.
Samardzija, who has never started against San Diego (17-33), is 2-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four home starts. He seems to have a favorable matchup against a Padres club that's dropped seven of eight while hitting .172 with runners in scoring position.
San Diego went 1 for 10 in RBI situations Monday, but managed to end a 26-inning scoreless drought behind a pair of homers from Chase Headley and a solo shot from Will Venable.
"It was good see a number of guys swing the bats, get multiple hits," manager Bud Black said. "Hopefully, that can carry over - not only (Tuesday) but moving through the week."
San Diego also received a boost from Carlos Quentin, who went 1 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI in his season debut. Acquired from the White Sox in the offseason, Quentin had been out since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee March 19.
The Padres will give the ball to another former White Sox player in Eric Stults (1-0, 1.54), who's impressed since being claimed off waivers May 17. Five days after throwing 6 2-3 innings of two-run ball in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, Stults gave up one unearned run over five innings of Thursday's 11-5 road win over the New York Mets.
"They hit some balls hard at guys, but I felt I was able to get ground balls," said Stults, who earned his first win since throwing a four-hit shutout while with the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 9, 2009. "I felt like I was pretty efficient."
It wasn't certain Stults would be able to make this start after getting hit by a line drive against the Mets, but he threw off a mound Sunday and felt good.
The left-hander is 0-2 with an 8.59 ERA in two career starts against the Cubs, but hasn't faced them since 2009.