Former first-round draft pick Chris Volstad returns from a stint in the minors in search of his first 2012 victory tonight, when the Chicago Cubs visit the Atlanta Braves for the second of four games at Turner Field.
The 16th overall selection by the Florida Marlins in 2005, Volstad won 32 games over 103 appearances with his initial team before heading to the Cubs in a January deal that sent controversial Venezuelan Carlos Zambrano to Florida.
Volstad allowed 51 hits and 36 runs on 41 innings over his initial eight starts, racking up a 7.46 earned run average and an 0-6 record before he was dispatched to Triple-A Iowa of the Pacific Coast League.
The 25-year-old made eight starts and went 2-3 with a 4.44 ERA in the minors, allowing 59 hits in 50 2/3 innings before he was summoned back for his 10th career start against the Braves.
In his initial nine meetings, Volstad is 2-4 with a 4.22 ERA.
In Monday's series opener, Jeff Samardzija had a career-high 11 strikeouts and Luis Valbuena stroked the tie-breaking three-run double in the seventh inning, lifting the Cubs past the Braves, 4-1.
Samardzija (6-7), who allowed nine runs in his last start against the Mets and had a 12.27 earned run average in his four previous starts coming in, tossed seven dominant innings in which he allowed one run on four hits and a walk.
"Like I said the last start, I thought it was a lot mental," Samardzija said. "For me, these last two starts, I felt like I wasn't giving myself the right opportunity to succeed and that's frustrating, especially with how our team's been playing.
"You don't want to be the one guy to let your team down. I really wanted to come out today and attack the zone and see what happens."
"That split finger was working really well today," Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "You don't see a lot of guys, especially with the lineup they have, taking swings like that."
Rizzo, coming off a weekend which included two game-winning hits, crushed his second home run of the season as the Cubs won their season-best fourth straight game.
"I'm just taking it at-bat by at-bat," Rizzo said. "Just try to learn from each at-bat and get my confidence up more. Just go from there."
Tommy Hanson (9-5) matched Samardzija pitch for pitch early, but the right- hander gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out eight and had a five-start unbeaten stretch broken. He's 0-4 lifetime against the Cubs.
"Just came down to that last inning really," Hanson said.
"A couple of base hits up the middle and I wanted to throw a back-door slider right there and it kind of leaked over the middle. I felt really good with my stuff. I was throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys. It just came down to that last inning."
Atlanta goes with Curacao-born righty Jair Jurrjens, who's also just back after a stint in the minors to remedy ineffectiveness.
The 26-year-old was a National League All-Star en route to a 13-win season with the Braves last year, but was 0-2 in his initial four starts this spring before heading to Triple-A Gwinnett of the International League.
He was 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA in 10 starts before heading back to the majors on June 22, when he scattered three hits and a run in 7 2/3 innings of a 4-1 defeat of the Boston Red Sox.
In one start since, he allowed two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of the Braves' 3-2 loss to Arizona on June 28.
Jurrjens is 1-1 in four career starts against the Cubs.
Chicago won two of three games from the Braves in a May series at Wrigley Field. Atlanta won four of seven from the Cubs last season. They last won the season series in 2008.