Marlins-Cubs Preview

Following an impressive June, this month has been a struggle for

Miami Marlins starter Josh Johnson.

Jeff Samardzija, meanwhile, is once again starting to look

comfortable for the Chicago Cubs following a disastrous start to

his summer.

Johnson tries to bounce back from another rough outing Wednesday

night when he squares off against Samardzija, who will be facing a

Marlins team that appeared to get its offense on track in the

series opener.

After combining for eight runs while splitting a four-game set

with NL East-leading Washington following the All-Star break, Miami

(44-46) pounded out 12 hits in Tuesday’s 9-5 win at Chicago. Omar

Infante went deep – one of his three hits – and Hanley Ramirez

added his 14th homer, but the game’s biggest blast was Carlos Lee’s

17th career grand slam. The Marlins, nine games out of first, won

their sixth straight over the Cubs (36-53), who suffered their

first loss in five games.

“We got big hits,” said the Marlins’ Ozzie Guillen, managing in

Chicago for the first time since leaving the White Sox. “Carlos has

been taking over in RBI situations, doing a tremendous job going

after it and bringing those guys in. We’re going to need more than

that.”

Lee increased his RBI total to seven in his last four games, and

his first homer with the Marlins fittingly came at Wrigley Field.

The longtime nemesis of Cubs pitching has 24 homers at Wrigley – 13

more than he has as a visitor at any other ballpark.

He is batting .333 with 11 RBIs in 13 games at Wrigley since the

start of last season, and is 4 for 9 with a homer off Samardzija

(6-8, 4.71 ERA).

Samardzija has been throwing the ball well lately, yielding four

runs over 14 innings in his two starts this month. That’s a stark

contrast to his final four June starts – all losses – when he

compiled a 12.27 ERA.

“I really like how the ball’s coming out and I mixed my pitches

well,” the right-hander said after allowing three runs in seven

innings of a 3-1 loss to the New York Mets on July 7.

While Samardzija is encouraged with the way he is throwing, the

same can’t be true for Johnson (5-6, 4.28), who allowed five runs

and a career high-tying 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings of Friday’s 5-1

loss to the Nationals. The right-hander has an 8.71 ERA in his two

starts this month after posting the NL’s fifth-best June ERA at

1.87.

He’ll be facing a Cubs team that squandered several scoring

chances in the opener, leaving 10 men on base.

“We didn’t get the big hit, in those good moments,” said

Chicago left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who was hitless in five

at-bats. “I hope that (Wednesday) we have those chances and get the

hit.”

It could be tough for Soriano to deliver.

He is 1 for 24 with seven strikeouts in his last seven games

against the Marlins, and is batting .125 with a double in 16 career

at-bats against Johnson, who has a 3.44 ERA without a decision in

three career starts against the Cubs.

Johnson gave up two runs in seven innings of the Marlins’ 5-2

comeback win over Chicago on April 17.

Two days after that game, Samardzija yielded five runs, eight

hits and five walks in 3 2-3 innings of a 5-3 loss in Miami.

Ramirez and Logan Morrison each had two hits off him.