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Jeff Samardzija looking for first win in a month vs. Nationals

Updated: September 20, 2013 6:30AM

Jeff Samardzija is without a victory since July  19 at Colorado as he starts the first game of a four-game series tonight against the Washington Nationals.

Samardzija is 0-2 in his last five starts with a 6.11 ERA, inflated by his 3 1/3-inning performance at Philadelphia on Aug. 8, when he gave up nine earned runs.

He’s 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 10 career games against the Nationals, three of which were starts. He gave up five runs in five innings against the Nationals earlier this season.

Samardzija still leads the Cubs staff with 163 strikeouts to 63 walks over 159 1/3 innings.

The Cubs took two out of three from the Nationals in their first meeting in May in Washington.

‘‘They’re a lot different now and have Bryce Harper back,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘We’ll have to score some runs — period — to win.’’

Still division foes

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina may be as close to irreplaceable as a player can be. But the Cardinals managed to go 6-8 while he was on the disabled list this month with a sprained knee.

There was speculation the Cardinals might seek Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro, but backup catcher Tony Cruz filled in despite a stress fracture in his left arm.

Cruz went on the DL after Molina returned last week.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said he doesn’t have a firm policy against trading within the division.

‘‘I think if there’s opportunities that exist, you have to explore them,’’ he said. ‘‘I would say the likelihood of us giving up some sort of elite talent is not likely going to happen from an inner-division standpoint. But it is something we would explore.’’

Visitors’ assist

Anthony Rizzo almost tumbled over the railing into the Cardinals’ dugout while making a catch of Molina’s foul fly in the fifth inning. Some in the dugout helped prevent the fall.

‘‘That’s good sportsmanship right there,’’ Rizzo said.

Still streaking

Top Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant continued hitting streaks this weekend, with shortstop Baez reaching seven games with a double Saturday for Class AA Tennessee and third baseman Bryant notching a third straight multi-hit game at Class A Daytona.

Baez is hitting .440 (11-for-25) in the streak with three home runs and eight RBI. Bryant has hit safely in five of his first six games since his promotion to Daytona last week.

Thumb prints

Sveum was ejected in the bottom of the seventh by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, who called a surprised Donnie Murphy out on a checked-swing third strike.

Third-base ump Tom Hallion ejected Cubs reliever James Russell at the same time for his comments from the dugout.

Contributing: Gordon Wittenmyer

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