Padres-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres may be at the bottom of their respective divisions, but recent success has both teams feeling better.

Some offensive help would certainly please Jeff Samardzija.

He'll try to avoid the longest losing streak of his career Monday night and help the Cubs to a sixth win in seven home meetings with the Padres, winners of four straight.

Chicago (9-15) and San Diego (9-15) occupy the basement in the NL Central and West, respectively. However, the Cubs have won four of six while the Padres are aiming for their longest winning streak since an eight-game run Aug. 19-27.

The Cubs may be coming off Sunday's 6-4 loss at Miami, but they took the previous three games to win their first series since going 2-1 at Pittsburgh to open the season.

"It's awesome," shortstop Starlin Castro said. "The team got off a little slow, but it's good for us to take this series and feel a little better about things right now."

The Cubs may not be feeling that way about their offense, which is batting .229, including a major league-worst .151 with runners in scoring position.

Chicago will try to begin changing that in this four-game set with the Padres as it begins a stretch of 16 of 19 at home. The Cubs have won five of the last six meetings at Wrigley Field, batting .285 with runners in scoring position.

That type of production would certainly be welcomed by Samardzija (1-4, 3.03 ERA), who is trying to snap a personal four-game slide since beating the Pirates on opening day.

The right-hander last dropped four straight starts from June 9-27. He has a 4.01 ERA during the current skid, turning in two quality starts but getting no run support in either outing.

That was the case Wednesday, when Samardzija yielded only a solo homer and scattered six other hits while fanning eight in six innings of a 1-0 loss at Cincinnati.

"It's not frustrating - it's just the first month of the season," Samardzija told the team's official website. "You have faith in your team, it's early in the season and you keep pitching and see what happens."

He's 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA in four games - two starts - against the Padres. However, he was the hard-luck loser opposite Clayton Richard - Monday's scheduled starter - in a 2-0 loss at San Diego on Aug. 8.

Samardzija allowed one run and four hits in seven innings, while Richard tossed a five-hitter as the Padres swept that three-game series.

This time, Richard (0-2, 7.94) is trying to rebound from one of the worst - and shortest - starts of his career.

The left-hander was tagged for six runs in 1 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday in his first outing in nine days due to the flu. It was the Padres' most recent defeat, and the first time Richard failed to complete the second inning since surrendering six runs in one-plus frames of a loss to Cleveland with the Chicago White Sox on July 9, 2009.

He's won both starts against the Cubs, yielding one run in 15 2-3 innings.

The Padres have a .289 average with runners in scoring position during a four-game winning streak, which continued with Sunday's 6-4 victory over San Francisco.

"We're definitely playing a lot better baseball right now," right fielder Chris Denorfia said. "Our pitching's been outstanding the last week, maybe more. Our hitting's coming around."

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