Right-hander Jeff Samardzija tries to snap a two-start skid on Friday night when the Chicago Cubs visit Miller Park to open a three-game weekend series with the host Milwaukee Brewers.
The former Notre Dame football standout opened the 2013 campaign with a 3-1 decision at Pittsburgh, then dropped consecutive starts at Atlanta and home with San Francisco while allowing six runs on 11 hits in 11 2/3 innings.
Samardzija, who began his career with just five starts in his initial 128 appearances, transitioned to starting in 2012 and won a career-high nine games in 28 starts while posting a 3.81 earned run average.
He's compiled a 2.75 ERA through 19 2/3 innings this season while allowing a stingy .183 opposition batting average.
Samardzija is 2-3 in 17 appearances against Milwaukee and has a 4.24 ERA in 17 innings at Miller Park.
The Brewers counter with righty Marco Estrada, who makes a second attempt at an 11th career victory.
The Mexican-born hurler won four games in 2011 and five last season, then picked up win No. 10 in April 8 this season when he downed the Cubs, 7-4, while allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings.
In one start since, a 4-3 Brewers win, he gave up three runs on seven hits in six innings.
Estrada is 3-0 in nine career meetings with the Cubs.
On Thursday in Chicago, Anthony Rizzo hit a two-run homer and the Cubs defeated the Texas Rangers, 6-2, in an interleague matchup.
Alfonso Soriano added a solo shot while Luis Valbuena drove in two runs and had a stolen base for the Cubs, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Starter Carlos Villanueva (1-0) fanned six and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk over seven innings.
"I found some things today and just got to build off the momentum here," said Rizzo. "It's big that Soriano hit as well, got his monkey off that shoulder, home run and an RBI. If this team is going to go, we have to take it. Soriano and I, we know we have to hit and we just want to keep building."
Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Yovani Gallardo tossed six innings of one-run baseball and hit a two-run homer, as the Brewers beat the San Francisco Giants, 7-2, to complete a three-game sweep.
Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy also smacked two-run homers for the Brewers, who recorded their first sweep of the Giants since July 18-20, 2008. Yuniesky Betancourt added an RBI.
Gallardo (1-1), who was arrested for drunk driving early Tuesday morning, gave up five hits while striking out six.
"He had something to prove," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Gallardo. "He wasn't happy with what happened a few days ago. He wanted to do whatever he could to pitch well."
The teams split two games on April 8-9 in Chicago. Milwaukee won 13 of 17 games between the teams last season.