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CHC@CIN: Samardzija throws 7 2/3 of one-run ball

Jeff Samardzija has made the most of his shot to stick in the Cubs' rotation, but he isn't taking that early success for granted.

The right-hander will carry a 3-1 record and a 3.41 ERA to the mound for his start against the Braves on Monday night at Wrigley Field as the teams begin a three-game set. He said his performance will only get "more and more important" going forward.

"It's a game where you have to keep proving yourself throughout the season and can't get complacent," Samardzija said after holding the Reds to one run in 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday. "You can't think your spot is safe. Someone is always nipping on your toes, and you've got to keep pushing."

Samardzija gave up five runs in consecutive starts after a strong debut, but he has bounced back in his past two outings, with a 0.63 ERA and 16 strikeouts. That's made the 27-year-old a bright spot for the last-place Cubs.

"Samardzija was throwing 96 to 97 mph and a nasty split," Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said after going 0-for-3 against him on April 24. "You're not going to get a ton of offense if a guy's locating a 97 mph fastball with an 89 mph split. Let's be straight, it doesn't matter if you're sending the greatest hitters in the world up there. If he's making pitches like that, you're not going to get a ton of offense."

Samardzija will face a challenge in Atlanta, which leads the Major Leagues in runs scored and is close behind Washington in the National League East. The Braves scored 29 runs in three games at Coors Field over the weekend and have plated 44 in their past five contests.

"We continue to throw good at-bats up there and get stuff going early on in innings," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Guys just seem to be really locked in on what they want to accomplish up there. We're just playing really good situational ball."

The Braves will send Tommy Hanson to the mound against the Cubs. The righty is 3-2 with a 3.74 ERA, but is coming off his worst start of the season. On Wednesday against the Phillies, Hanson needed 95 pitches to get through 3 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and four earned runs.

Braves: Renewing series success
Atlanta moved to 18-11 when it finished off a three-game sweep Colorado of Sunday, a good start to the team's nine-game road trip.

Since opening the season with a sweep at the hands of the Mets, Atlanta has won six of eight series, with one loss and one split.

"You always just try to win series," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "To come in to the first series and get a sweep, it's a nice way to start a road trip."

Freeman went 6-for-14 with four extra-base hits in Colorado to up his road slugging percentage to .632, compared with .413 at Turner Field.

• Martin Prado missed his second straight start on Saturday with the flu, although he entered the game against the Rockies as a pinch-hitter and reached base safely twice. Prado was back in the lineup on Sunday and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in the No. 2 spot.

Cubs: Flu causes roster shuffle
Pitcher Matt Garza, scheduled to start on Sunday, was scratched after catching a case of the flu that has swept through the clubhouse. That forced the team to call up Travis Wood from Triple-A for a spot start and clear roster space by designating Blake DeWitt for assignment.

DeWitt, batting .138 in 18 games this season, had been designated on Feb. 6 before clearing waivers and rejoining the team as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training. Manager Dale Sveum said he hoped DeWitt would remain with the organization again.

• Bryan LaHair has reached base safely in a team-best 24 straight games, the longest such streak by a Cubs first baseman since Derrek Lee's 30-gamer in 2009.

Worth noting
• This series is Atlanta's only trip to Wrigley Field this season, likely making it the final time Jones will play at the ballpark. He has hit .219 with a .687 OPS in 52 career games there.

• The Braves are starting a stretch of nine straight games against NL Central teams. Atlanta is 7-3 this season against that division. Comments