The Milwaukee Brewers' surge has been aided by a pair of series against the lowly Chicago Cubs, and now an unexpected offensive source.
Jeff Bianchi and the Brewers look to continue capitalizing on one of baseball's worst teams and extend their longest winning streak in the all-time series Wednesday night at Wrigley Field.
Milwaukee (61-67) has won seven of eight, with five of those victories coming against Chicago (49-79).
The Brewers are 12-3 versus the Cubs this season, and have won seven consecutive meetings for the longest winning streak by either team in an all-time series that dates to 1997.
Milwaukee has outscored Chicago 48-17 and batted .294 with 13 homers during that seven-game run.
The one-sided series continued Tuesday, with the Brewers winning 4-1 after pounding out a season-high 21 hits to win the opener of this four-game set 15-4 a day earlier.
Bianchi, who was released by the Cubs in January, provided the difference early Tuesday, connecting for a three-run, second-inning shot for his first career homer. The 25-year-old rookie shortstop is 5 for 9 with four RBIs over his last four games after going 0 for 13 in his first eight games in the majors.
"It calmed me down a little bit," Bianchi said of his first big league hit, which came on Saturday.
The Brewers are expected to give the ball to Mike Fiers (7-6, 2.98 ERA), who looks to build on his first win in three starts.
The rookie right-hander matched his season high with 10 strikeouts and allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings in Friday's 6-5 win at Pittsburgh. He also bunted for his first career hit after going 0 for 22 with 12 strikeouts.
Fiers had lost his two previous outings while surrendering 12 runs in seven innings.
"It was a really nice outing for him," manager Ron Roenicke. "The off-speed pitch was good, the curveball was good and he really kept them off balance."
Fiers walked two in one scoreless inning of relief in his only appearance against the Cubs on Sept. 21, 2011.
Tuesday's loss was the 21st in 27 games for the Cubs, who got all their offense on a solo homer from starting pitcher Travis Wood.
Jeff Samardzija (8-11, 4.09) is scheduled to start for Chicago, which has won each of the right-hander's last four home outings. He's 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in those games, striking out 34 over 25 innings during that stretch.
Samardzija gave up a run in each of the first three innings Friday, but tossed four more scoreless and left with seven strikeouts, while not getting a decision in Friday's 5-3 win over Colorado.
"He was able to settle down," manager Dale Sveum said. "He's grown a lot, especially in the last four, five, six starts. You start seeing a guy who's learning what to do in situations, how to get quicker outs."
Samardzija limited the Brewers to one run and three hits in five innings at Miller Park on May 13 but didn't get a decision in an 8-2 win.
This will be his first start against Milwaukee at Wrigley Field though he is 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA in eight relief appearances there.
Ryan Braun, who is for 5 for 10 with a homer and five RBIs in this series, has a home run among his four hits in 10 career at-bats against Samardzija.