Cubs-Mariners Preview

The Associated Press

Based on the way Jeff Samardzija has pitched on the road of late, he might have a good chance to win three straight starts overall for the first time in his career.

The Chicago Cubs right-hander looks to accomplish that feat when he faces the Seattle Mariners for the first time Saturday night at Safeco Field.

Samardzija (5-7, 3.39 ERA) has been dominant in his last three road starts, allowing three runs and 12 hits in 24 2-3 innings with four walks and 22 strikeouts. He's won the last two after losing five in a row away from home.

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His most recent victory came at home Sunday when he allowed four runs and nine hits, but he lasted seven innings and did not surrender a walk for the first time this season in a 14-6 rout of Houston.

"Anytime I don't walk somebody, usually the outcome is in the positive side of things," said Samardzija, who has made 49 starts but has never won more than two straight decisions. "I attacked the zone, had a couple of three-ball counts, just wanted to stay there and not give any freebies up."

He'll try to help Chicago (33-45) bounce back after it blew a three-run lead in Friday's 5-4, 10-inning loss at Seattle.

Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro each homered for the Cubs, who went deep in a season-high eighth straight game while falling to 8-4 during interleague play. Chicago's bullpen yielded three runs in three innings after Travis Wood allowed two in 6 1-3 frames.

Underachieving shortstop Starlin Castro was 4 for 10 in two games after sitting out Tuesday at Milwaukee, but he went 0 for 4 against the Mariners. Castro is 0 for 10 with five strikeouts versus Seattle.

Soriano, who will serve as the designated hitter for this series and again next week at Oakland, is batting .370 in his last six interleague games.

However, he's 1 for his last 6 against scheduled Seattle starter Aaron Harang (3-7, 5.29 ERA). The 35-year-old right-hander is 2-0 with a 3.16 ERA in his last four starts against the Cubs, but he's battled inconsistency during his first season with the Mariners (35-45).

Harang is 2-3 with a 4.05 ERA in his last seven starts, recording two shutouts at home but also failing to get past the fifth inning four times. He's 0-1 in his last two starts and pitched five innings in both, giving up three runs in a 7-5 win over Oakland last Saturday.

Jason Bay homered and rookie catcher Mike Zunino hit a game-winning single Friday as the Mariners took advantage of three 10th-inning walks to avoid a third straight loss.

"It was a giant sigh of relief," said Zunino, who is 5 for 14 in four games since a 4-for-24 slump after debuting June 12. "Anything you can do to help the team win."

Fellow rookie Nick Franklin had three hits, including two doubles, to raise his average to .328 in 18 home games.

All nine of Bay's home runs this season have come with nobody on base. He's hit .396 with nine RBIs in his last 14 games against the Cubs.

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