Although an unexpected outburst helped end their losing streak, the Chicago Cubs have been plagued by their inconsistency at the plate in key situations.
They might continue to scuffle against a former Cub who has pitched well at home for the San Diego Padres.
Andrew Cashner looks to hold an opponent to two earned runs or less for a sixth straight home start while dealing Chicago its 11th loss in 14 games Sunday.
Following a 3-for-19 stretch, Darwin Barney broke out with three hits - including his first home run since July 14 - and two RBIs to help the NL Central-worst Cubs (55-74) snap a four-game skid with Saturday's 3-2 victory.
"Tip my hat to Barney for giving me those two runs,' said Jeff Samardzija, who has Chicago's two wins over the past eight games.
While the Padres (58-71) went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and have a .191 average in those situations since July 19, the Cubs are batting a major league-worst .180 over that span. Barney (5 for 27), Starlin Castro (3 for 31) and Anthony Rizzo (6 for 36) are among those who aren't coming through in clutch moments.
Chicago has gone 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position while scoring three runs in 17 innings in this series since a six-run first in an 8-6 loss in Friday's opener.
Castro (4 for 46) and Rizzo (12 for 79) have also struggled overall as of late, though Junior Lake (13 for 30) and Dioner Navarro (8 for 22) have tried to pick up the slack.
The Cubs, who snapped a five-game skid in San Diego, look to win consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 9-10 in St. Louis. They'll take on a familiar face in Cashner (8-8, 3.74 ERA), who was sent to San Diego in exchange for Rizzo in January of 2012.
Since posting a 3.79 ERA and getting 20 runs of support in three straight victories, the right-hander has a 3.32 ERA and received three total runs while losing his last three starts. He's pitched particularly well at home, however, going 2-2 with a 2.06 ERA in his last five starts there.
Cashner is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in three career appearances versus the Cubs. He allowed four walks and five runs over four innings in his only start against them, a 6-2 loss at Wrigley Field on May 1.
Chicago starter Chris Rusin (2-3, 3.08) has a 2.04 ERA in his last three starts, but has dropped his last two while receiving only one run of support. He yielded two runs but matched a career high by allowing 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 4-2 loss to Washington on Tuesday.
"I couldn't find my two-seam (fastball) but I was able to find some other pitches to get me out of jams," Rusin said.
The left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his last three road starts and hasn't allowed a run there in 13 innings.
He could have his hands full with Will Venable, who is 6 for 8 with two home runs in this series. He's also batting .391 with seven homers over his last 22 games overall.
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