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BOS@CHC: Samardzija fans six over 5 1/3 strong frames

Friday's matchup between the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and the D-backs' Joe Saunders is a matchup between two pitchers who are making progress in their continuing attempt to become comfortable and productive in their current surroundings.

Samardzija, the former Notre Dame football star, is 5-5, 4.04 in 13 starts, as he seeks to establish himself in the Cubs' starting rotation.

The tall right-hander pitched well in his last outing, working 5 1/3 innings and yielding four hits and three earned runs while striking out six on Saturday in a 4-3 loss to the Red Sox.

Despite the loss, Samardzija took another step in his maturation, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.

One thing the pitcher has to learn how to do is tame his "football mentality," Sveum said.

"He's still learning how to calm himself down and not throw what [coach Mike] Borzello calls a 'gorilla pitch' sometimes when things aren't going too well," Sveum said.

Samardzija was hurt in the game when a promising Cubs rally in the sixth inning was snuffed out when teammate Alfonso Soriano did not run to first base after hitting a ball to Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks with two runners on base.

Thinking Middlebrooks had caught the ball, Soriano was an easy out when the third baseman recovered and threw him out at first.

Samardzija and his Cubs teammates were understanding of Soriano's lapse.

"Anything Alfonso does when he's playing with me in my lineup, I have no problems with," Samardzija said. "I hope he's in there every day when I pitch, and I hope he plays left and I hope he hits third, fourth, fifth or sixth. ... He cares, and you know he's trying."

Saunders is in his fourth season with the D-backs after an enjoyable 5 1/2 seasons with the Angels, for whom he won 17 games in 2008 and 16 in '09.

Saunders, who is 4-5 with a 3.44 ERA, made his 13th start on Saturday against the Angels, and battled a case of nerves because it was the first time he had faced his former team since being traded in '10.

"There was definitely some butterflies," Saunders said after allowing eight hits and two earned runs in an Arizona loss. "You just keep telling yourself it's another ballgame. It was definitely strange. I was telling myself, 'Just don't go to the third-base dugout.'"

Cubs: Castro among hit leaders
Prior to Wednesday's games, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro had the third-most hits (431) in the Major Leagues since making his debut May 7, 2010. Michael Young of Texas was first with 440, and Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle was next with 436.

• The Cubs flew to Arizona after Wednesday's game, which gave Sveum a chance to spend Thursday's off-day at home, as he lives in the Phoenix area. While at home, Sveum will get to see his son, Rustin, play a baseball game on Thursday night.

D-backs: Runs piling up
The D-backs come into the series against the Cubs with their hitters rolling. They beat the Mariners, 14-10, on Wednesday before Thursday's day off, and in the process hit six home runs. They scored seven runs in the first game of the series with the Mariners on Monday, and 12 on Tuesday.

Worth noting
• Third baseman Ryan Roberts' inside-the-park home run Wednesday was the eighth in D-backs history.

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