Jeff Samardzija finally picked up his second win of 2013 in his last outing. His next start will come against the team he beat for victory No. 1.
The Cubs right-hander is scheduled to toe the slab at PNC Park on Wednesday opposite Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano. On Opening Day, Samardzija dominated the Bucs -- as he's been known to do -- allowing two hits and striking out nine over eight shutout innings.
In nine starts this season, Samardzija is 2-5 with a 3.49 ERA. In his last outing, he gave up two runs over eight innings against the Rockies at home. He also hit a two-run homer off Colorado pitcher Jon Garland.
"He's a velocity guy who can get carried away with trying to blow people away," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He's learning the hard way and understanding, 'I still better locate my fastball.' He's going to give up the hanging split [sometimes] -- that's just the way that goes with a power split -- you're not going to throw every one of them to the earth. You are going to hang them sometimes.
"That game against Pittsburgh on Opening Day, he pitched inside incredibly, and we have to get back to pitching to both sides of the plate and not letting guys get comfortable."
In 14 career games against the Pirates (three starts), Samardzija is 4-0 with a 0.92 ERA. Across 39 innings, he's fanned 33 Bucs while issuing nine walks. He also has surrendered just one home run.
That homer came off the bat of second baseman Neil Walker, who's 2-for-10 against the 6-foot-5 righty. The only Pirates hitter to bat .200 or better with at least eight at-bats off Samardzija is Andrew McCutchen. The center fielder, who was back in Pittsburgh's lineup on Tuesday after dealing with a sore right knee, is 4-for-13 with one double.
But one player's statistics against a given pitcher only say so much, according to Bucs manager Clint Hurdle.
"You always like it when you've got a lot of people to chose from," Hurdle said. "I've got a buddy who will grab a 5-for-7 and say he's wearing them out. But I'll say, there were two bunt hits, two balls off the end of the bat and a line-drive single. 'Oh, well I didn't have that.' I do.
"Then there's another guy who's 2-for-8, but who's hit five absolute missiles at people. Where do you want to go? That's the gut feeling. Do you just like the result and the fact that this guy just finds a way to get on base against this guy, or the other guy who hits some bad luck. It's deeper than just the numbers."
Cubs: Vitters' starts come at Stewart's expense
An injury during Spring Training derailed the 2013 season of Ian Stewart, who was projected to be Chicago's regular third baseman this season. Now, with Stewart at Triple-A Iowa, it's another player who's getting in his way. Josh Vitters, the team's No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, will get the bulk of the at-bats as the team's third baseman, which will come at Stewart's expense.
"[Vitters] is the priority, put it that way," Sveum said Tuesday. "Who knows about third basemen of the future, but he's a priority to develop as that guy. The guy was a first-round pick, and the guy can swing the bat. We still have to develop him with the thought of him being our third baseman some day. He's got power, he can swing, he can hit a fastball. But there's a lot of development left in him."
Pirates: Liriano making up for lost time
After missing the first 25 games of the season with a fractured right arm, Francisco Liriano came off the disabled list on May 11 and picked up wins in each of his two outings of 2013. The two starts were nearly identical: five-plus innings pitched with six hits and one run allowed. In 11 total innings, Liriano has 16 strikeouts and five walks.
He's 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA this season.
"I tried not to get too excited," Liriano said after his first start back. "I didn't want to try to do too much."
Added Hurdle: "He made himself a popular addition right away."
• With Tuesday's 5-4 win, Pittsburgh tied the season series with the Cubs, 2-2. The two clubs split the season series last year, 8-8.
• The Pirates (27-18, third place) are 8 1/2 games over Chicago (18-26, fourth place) in the National League Central.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.