Cubs kick off series vs. Padres

Cubs kick off series vs. Padres
April 29, 2013, 11:15 am
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Tony Andracki

First pitch: 7:05 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Plus. (Cubs Pregame Live starts at 6:30 p.m. and Postgame Live will air immediately after the game.)

On the mound: Jeff Samardzija (1-4, 3.03 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) vs. Clayton Richard (0-2, 7.94 ERA, 2.00 WHIP)

How often do you see a pitcher with a 3.03 ERA and 1.10 WHIP but only a 1-4 record? Samardzija has been the Cubs' tough luck pitcher all season, despite emerging as the team's ace.

In his last four starts -- all losses -- the Cubs have given Samardzija just seven runs of support. You won't win many games with that.

But, the Cubs are in the midst of by far their best stretch of the season, having taken three of four from the Marlins and winners of four of the last six.

[MORE: Cubs see Castro and Barney as game-changers]

Yes, the Marlins are undoubtedly the worst team in the National League, but wins are wins, and the successful series in South Beach may have given the Cubs a wake-up call.

Richard, 29, started his career with the White Sox and was dealt to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal at the 2009 trade deadline.

Today's storyline: Can the Cubs stay hot?

After a tough stretch to start the season, the Cubs got some schedule relief with eight straight games against two of the worst teams in MLB. The Padres and Cubs are both 9-15, though San Diego's run differential is -26, a far cry from the Cubs' -15.

The Cubs will want to take advantage of the soft spot in their schedule, as things will get significantly tougher come Friday. May 3 will start a run of nine straight games against playoff hopefuls in the Reds, Rangers, Cardinals and Nationals.

What else to watch for

Every time Samardzija takes the ball, it's a must-watch for Cubs fans. The big right-hander has emerged as a building block for this franchise and an anchor at the front of the starting rotation.

The last word

Finally, some decent weather in Chicago. The Cubs' first homestand of the season was downright awful weather-wise, with frigid temperatures and loads of rain.

Our current warm weather won't last (it's supposed to be in the upper 40s and low 50s Thursday and Friday), but we can at least enjoy it while we've got it. The temperature will be around 70 degrees at first pitch tonight, and could reach as high as 80 Tuesday.