Jeff Samardzija got his 2013 season off to a great start with a win over Pittsburgh back on April 1, but it took him another month and a half to find the win column for a second time.
The Chicago Cubs hurler tries to make it two straight winning starts on Wednesday and remain undefeated versus the Pirates in the second contest of a three-game series at PNC Park.
Samardzija opened the Cubs' season by beating the Pirates with eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball. He also fanned nine and improved to 4-0 with a 0.82 earned run average in 14 career meetings with Pittsburgh, including three starts.
The right-hander went winless over his next seven outings, losing five decisions, before beating the Colorado Rockies last Wednesday. Samardzija matched a season high with eight innings, scattering two runs and five hits while striking out seven. He got both of those runs back himself with a two- run homer, the second longball of his career.
"He knew what he was doing tonight," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija. "He was pitching, he just wasn't out there throwing. He broke a lot of bats again tonight and I think when he's pitching well, he breaks a lot of bats."
Samardzija, among the NL leaders with 64 strikeouts, is 2-5 on the season in nine starts with a 3.49 ERA.
For the Pirates, Francisco Liriano looks to begin his Pirates career with a third victory in as many starts with the club.
Signed as a free agent this offseason, Liriano began the season on the disabled list due to a broken right arm suffered in December. The lefty made his 2013 debut on May 11 and beat the New York Mets, hurling 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball.
He produced a similar outing last time out to beat the Milwaukee Brewers, again allowing a run on six hits while fanning seven over 5 2/3 innings.
Liriano has faced the Cubs once before and took a loss on June 10 of last year while with Minnesota. He allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings.
After losing two of three to the Cubs at home to begin the season, the Pirates won last night's series opener 5-4 thanks to Travis Snider's pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth inning.
Pittsburgh got all five of its runs in the frame, with Pedro Alvarez working a bases-loaded walk with one out. Chicago then brought in reliever Shawn Camp, who got Gaby Sanchez to fly out before yielding Snider's go-ahead homer.
"Camp made a mistake and left it up in the zone. I was able to get just enough of it and sneak it over the wall and come through," Snider said.
Neil Walker had a double, three walks and a run scored for the Pirates, winners in nine of their past 11 games. Wandy Rodriguez gave up three runs on six hits while striking out five over six innings to earn the win, while Jason Grilli picked up his 18th save despite allowing a run in the ninth inning.
Pittsburgh's offense came to life after Chicago starter Matt Garza came out of the game following five scoreless innings. He was making his first start since July 21, 2012 and took a no-hitter into the fifth.
Garza missed the second half of the last season because of stress reaction in his right elbow and his return was further delayed after suffering a left lat strain in spring training.
"He was really good. He had a really good slider tonight and had really good command. When he was missing it was by just very little. He was outstanding for his first night back," Sveum said.
Darwin Barney went 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored and Starlin Castro drove in a run in the ninth for the Cubs, who have dropped four of their last six games.