Jeff Samardzija has won both of his starts since earning a spot in the Chicago Cubs' rotation out of spring training, but he wasn't exactly pleased with his most recent outing.
The right-hander will try for a better performance Thursday when he faces hot-hitting Hanley Ramirez and the Miami Marlins, who are seeking their first three-game sweep of the struggling Cubs in nearly five years.
Samardzija (2-0, 3.95 ERA) had a solid season debut April 8 as he struck out eight while finishing one out shy of a complete game in a 4-3 win over Washington. He appeared on his way to another strong outing Friday in St. Louis when he kept the Cardinals scoreless over the first four innings.
Samardzija, though, gave up five runs and six hits in his fifth and final inning, but managed to get enough run support in a 9-5 win.
"I think I got a little complacent with how I went the first four innings, and I was looking to have another quick inning," he told the team's official website. "I need to concentrate a little bit more there and lock in and keep that ball down in the zone."
Samardzija, who has made seven career starts, won his only one against the Marlins (6-6) on Sept. 19, 2010, in Miami. If he can earn another victory, he'll help the Cubs (3-9) avoid their first three-game sweep there since Sept. 25-27, 2007. Chicago also lost three straight at Wrigley Field to the Marlins from May 28-30, 2007.
The Cubs will try to avoid a fifth straight loss by getting a breakout performance from their hitters against former draft pick Ricky Nolasco (1-0, 3.46).
Nolasco, though, has allowed three runs or fewer in his two starts this season. The right-hander gave up two runs and four hits over five innings Friday against Houston but the Marlins bullpen blew a two-run lead in a 5-4 win in 11 innings.
"It was a battle," Nolasco told his team's official website. "I didn't feel too great but that happens and it's going to happen again. Those are the games where you just find a way and give your team the best chance to win. I just tried to go out there and gut it out as long as I could. I'm glad that we were able to win that one here today."
Nolasco is 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs but lost his most recent one July 15 at Wrigley despite allowing two unearned runs over seven innings. This time, he'll face a team that's batted .198 while being outscored 29-7 during its four-game skid.
Ian Stewart drove in Chicago's lone run during Wednesday's 9-1 loss on a groundout. Ramirez, meanwhile, homered for the third straight game and Donnie Murphy drove in three runs.
Murphy was starting in place of Omar Infante, who's also expected to miss Thursday's game because of a sore groin.
"The way we're swinging the bat right now, I'm very excited," manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Ramirez, 9 for 16 with nine RBIs over his last four games, is 3 for 6 with a double in his career against Samardzija but has also struck out three times.
The Marlins, winners in three straight, are seeking to move above .500 for the first time since they were 32-31 on June 11.