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Cubs praise Samardzija amid winless streak

ST. LOUIS -- Jeff Samardzija ranks second in the Major Leagues with a 1.45 ERA, yet he is winless in his eight starts this season. He'll try again for that elusive "W" on Friday when the Cubs play host to the Brewers.

What do the Cubs need to do to get the right-hander a win?

"It's tough to say, because you never know what's going to happen tomorrow," catcher Welington Castillo said Thursday. "We're going to go with our plan like we always do. We just have to support him a little more with some runs. He has to do the same thing he's been doing his last starts. I think we just need to support him a little bit more. Let's see if tomorrow's the day."

The Cubs have scored 15 runs in Samardzija's eight starts, and he has the second-lowest run support average (1.93) in the Major Leagues. On Monday, they scored 17 runs in a win over the Cardinals.

"We just have to score some runs -- the guy's giving up less than two runs a game for nine innings," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "If we come out and put up three or four, he'll get a win. We just haven't been able to do that for him yet."

Samardzija's streak isn't the longest in Cubs history. As recently as 2012, Ryan Dempster opened the season 0-3 in his first nine starts with a 2.90 ERA before he picked up his first win. Dempster had gone 18 starts without a win, dating back to 2011, and he was the first Cubs pitcher to do so since Danny Jackson's 20-start winless streak in 1991-92.

Samardzija's last win was Aug. 24 against the Padres. He finished the 2013 season 0-2 in his final six starts.

"He's been doing his job," Castillo said of the Cubs' Opening Day starter. "He's been focusing on what he can control and trying to give us a chance to win. His ERA has been amazing. You cannot ask any more of him. He always goes out to pitch and gives us a chance to win."

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer has watched Samardzija evolve as a pitcher.

"The wins thing to me is frustrating, because in general, it's a stat that we've all moved away from," Hoyer said. "The way he's pitched, I think he's been as good as anyone in the National League. It'll be nice one day if he didn't have his best stuff and people picked him up."

Said Castillo: "Everybody wants to win, every pitcher wants to win. At the same time, he understands, 'That's all I can control.' Pitch seven, eight innings, sometimes nine, and that's all he can control. He's been really, really good about it."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
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