Former Notre Dame football prospect Jeff Samardzija can join the National League elites with three early-season wins today when the Chicago Cubs complete a three-game series with the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.
The Cubs dropped their second straight in the matchup on Wednesday, when Mark Buehrle went eight innings, Hanley Ramirez and Donnie Murphy both hit a two- run homer and the Marlins won big, 9-1.
Buehrle (1-2) allowed one run on six hits, did not issue a walk, struck out five and added an RBI single for the Marlins, who have won a season-high three straight.
Murphy finished with three RBI and Gaby Sanchez went 3-for-5 with an RBI double.
Matt Garza (1-1) allowed six runs on seven hits over five-plus innings in defeat. Ian Stewart knocked in the lone run for the Cubs, losers of four straight.
Samardzija, who appeared in 75 games as a reliever last season with zero starts, has opened 2012 with victories in each of two starting assignments, allowing 14 hits and six earned runs in 13 2/3 innings while toppling Washington and St. Louis.
The Cubs won the games 4-3 and 9-5, respectively, but they are 1-9 in games Samardzija has not pitched.
The 27-year-old Indiana native, who'd made five big-league starts in 128 games since debuting in 2008, is 2-0 with a 3.78 ERA in 10 career meetings with the Marlins, including one start.
In his career, he's allowed 169 hits and struck out 155 batters in 183 1/3 innings, while allowing an opposition batting average of .242.
Starting for Miami will be 29-year-old righty Ricky Nolasco, who makes his eighth career appearance against the team that made him a fourth-round draft choice in 2001.
Nolasco is 3-2 with a 2.57 earned run average in 42 previous innings against the Cubs, striking out 35 batters and walking seven.
He was traded from the Chicago organization to the Marlins in December 2005, as part of a deal that saw Sergio Mitre and Renyel Pinto also heading to Florida in exchange for Juan Pierre.
He has a win and a no-decision in two outings in 2012, scattering 10 hits and giving up five runs in 13 innings against Cincinnati (W) and Houston (ND).
The Marlins have won both games he's pitched.