The teams have gone their separate ways since Washington took two of three from Chicago to begin the schedule, but when they renew acquaintances on Monday afternoon at Nationals Park, it will be Samardzija on the mound again.
In Monday's openre, Ross Detwiler will take the ball for the National League East-leading Nationals, who can set a club record for the most wins since the franchise moved to Washington in 2005. The Nats recorded victory No. 81 on Sunday, matching the total set by the '05 squad.
The Cubs went 8-21 in August and have started September 0-2, but have the opportunity to play spoiler over the final month. Chicago not only has games left against Washington, but also faces playoff contenders Arizona, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
"I think as the races get closer, and teams roll in here and we go there, you hope for guys to make the playoffs, but at the same time, we're going to do our best to win ballgames," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
Manager Dale Sveum knows that will be a significant challenge, even with Washington's ace, Stephen Strasburg, not pitching in the series.
"We're going to see the best team in baseball the next four days," Sveum said. "Even though we miss Strasburg, we're still going to see four quality starters and a heck of a lineup that they can throw at you. Everybody in their lineup is capable of hitting 20 home runs and swinging the bats really well. We've got our hands full the next seven days."
The Cubs are fielding a much different lineup now than the one the Nationals faced on Opening Day. Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto all were traded, while Ian Stewart is on the 60-day disabled list.
But Samardzija has built on that first start and sits 8-12 with a 4.03 ERA and a team-best 15 quality starts. He's thrown a career-high 158 2/3 innings, but has been strong of late, with a 2.78 ERA since the start of July. On Wednesday against the Brewers, the right-hander struck out 10 and walked none while giving up three runs in seven innings.
"He's got good stuff," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said afterward. "I mean, his fastball is not just hard, when it's down, it's diving. His slider is good. His split-finger is really good, guys aren't picking it up. He's a good pitcher."
Detwiler is 8-6 with a 3.32 ERA overall and has a 3.30 mark in 12 starts since rejoining the rotation on June 24. The lefty has struck out 37 in 71 innings over that span and has issued only 15 walks. On Wednesday at Miami, he gave up three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Cubs: Sveum being careful with days off
Chicago is halfway through a stretch of 20 straight games and heads out on the road for the remainder. Sveum will be keeping an eye on Rizzo, as well as shortstop Starlin Castro and left fielder Alfonso Soriano, to see if they need any rest.
"I think it's Dale knowing the guys," Rizzo said. "We talk all the time, and he knows where I'm at. This game will get to you. You take the day off, relax, watch from [the bench], learn a thing or two, and keep going every day."
Sveum said he will give days off if, "it's called for or we're not playing contending teams." The Nationals fall into that category, so the regulars are likely to play in this series. At the least, Castro, Rizzo and Soriano won't be on the bench at the same time.
"You can't ever think about giving two of those guys the same day off," Sveum said. "You have to pick those days and figure out who needs them mentally or physically. It's a little bit of a crap shoot sometimes."
Nationals: Werth sits out Sunday
After hamstring cramps took Jayson Werth out of the Saturday's game in the ninth inning, the right fielder downplayed the significance of the injury, saying, "I don't think it's too serious."
Manager Davey Johnson added that Werth, "didn't pull nothing, so he should be OK." Still, Werth was scratched Sunday after initially being penciled in as the leadoff hitter. Roger Bernadina got the start instead and played center field, with Bryce Harper shifting to right.
Werth had started each of the Nationals' past 16 games, batting .323 with an .873 OPS in that span.
Left-handed reliever Sean Burnett saw a streak of 11 straight scoreless appearances snapped on Aug. 15 and has gone through a rough patch since. In his last seven games, Burnett has given up five runs on 14 hits in 5 1/3 innings, while opponents have gone 14-for-27 (.519) against him. He also gave up game-tying runs on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Cubs are a .500 team at home, but 17-48 on the road, including 1-6 on their most recent trip.
Detwiler hasn't faced Chicago this season, but went 1-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two 2011 starts.