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.
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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.