May 21, 2014

The New York Yankees won't be facing the Chicago Cubs again in the regular season after Wednesday, but it's possible Jeff Samardzija could be seeing more of them in a couple of months.

Samardzija will take the mound as the major leagues' ERA leader when he tries again for his first win of the season in a home matchup with the Yankees.

New York (23-21) didn't get its week in the Windy City off to a good start, losing 6-1 on Tuesday as Masahiro Tanaka suffered his first loss in the majors. The Yankees will follow up this two-game series with four games against the White Sox starting Thursday.

The last-place Cubs (16-27) scored four runs in six innings off Tanaka to snap his regular-season unbeaten streak at 42 starts, including Japan League play. Luis Valbuena had three hits with two doubles and scored two runs, Mike Olt drove in three and Jason Hammel pitched into the sixth to give Chicago a season high-tying third straight victory.

"We're looking at playing our opponents, and when we step between the lines, there are big names out there," manager Rick Renteria told the team's official website. "Guys come up and they're in awe - but I want these guys to see that's a shortstop, that's a second baseman, that's a first baseman, that's a third baseman (on the Yankees). We know what they can do, what they can't do. We have to play our best game against their best game, and see where it falls."

Samardzija (0-4, 1.62 ERA) will try to earn his first victory in 16 games, dating to Aug. 24. The right-hander will take the mound with the best ERA in baseball after the previous leader, Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto, was roughed up by Washington on Tuesday and saw his ERA rise from 1.25 to 1.86.

Samardzija's latest attempt at an elusive win came Friday when he pitched five innings and allowed four runs - two earned - with six strikeouts and three walks in a 4-3 loss to Milwaukee. He had allowed no earned runs in 15 innings over his previous two outings.

Samardzija is receiving 2.21 runs of support per game, among the lowest marks in the majors.

''Obviously I want to win,'' Samardzija said. ''Being a starting pitcher, you have a big say as to how the game turns out. Obviously if my record isn't what I want it to be I need to do a better job.''

Teams that are seeking pitching, however, are plenty impressed with the job Samardzija has done this year, and he's expected to be one of the most sought-after arms if Chicago makes him available when the trade market heats up. New York is one of those clubs seeking help for its rotation, which has been battered by injury.

The state of the Yankees' starting pitching will be apparent Wednesday with fill-in Chase Whitley taking the mound for his second career start. The right-hander turned in a decent effort against the Mets on Thursday, going 4 2-3 innings and allowing two hits and two walks in a 1-0 win.

"Everyone has to contribute. If we're going to get where we want to be, everyone has to contribute," manager Joe Girardi told the team's website. "You can't expect one guy (Tanaka) to take you to that spot."

Samardzija has faced the Yankees once, a relief appearance at Wrigley Field on June 18, 2011, in which he went 1 1-3 innings and allowed one run, two hits and three walks.

It's uncertain if the retiring Derek Jeter, honored by the Cubs before Tuesday's contest, will be in the lineup for this day game following a night game.

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