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CHC@CIN: Samardzija strikes out eight over six frames

The Cubs finally return to Chicago on Monday after spending most of the season's first month away from Wrigley Field.

There also should be a good vibe surrounding the Friendly Confines, both because of the Cubs' weekend series victory over the Marlins and because Monday's series opener against the Padres and right-hander Clayton Richard signals the start of a 10-game homestand.

Although the Cubs have struggled this season, one thing is certain: They'll provide close games. All of Chicago's games this season have been decided by four runs or fewer.

"We've played everybody tooth-and-nail down to the final out of the game," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Right now, we're not putting anybody away, whether it's the guys over .500 or under .500."

Those close calls have led to more than a fair share of hard-luck losses for Cubs starters, who have a 1.98 ERA in 15 quality starts this season but only five victories to show for it.

Monday's starter, right-hander Jeff Samardzija, has three of those quality starts, but is riding a four-game losing streak despite sporting a 3.03 ERA and ranking among the National League leaders in strikeouts.

"It's not frustrating -- it's just the first month of the season," Samardzija said after his last outing, during which he battled through a cut on his right index finger but allowed only one run. "You have faith in your team; it's early in the season and you keep pitching and see what happens."

Richard tried to pitch through a virus in his last outing, but the results didn't align with the effort. The right-hander allowed six runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Brewers after previously having his start bumped because of flu-like symptoms.

It marked the third time in Richard's career that he pitched two innings or fewer. The last was on April 8, 2011, when he pitched one inning against the Dodgers, though the game was delayed because of rain. The other time was July 9, 2009, when he was with the White Sox.

Richard said after the game that the illness was not the reason for his ineffectiveness.

"It's just one of those things you deal with going through a season," Richard said. "It's a non-issue."

Padres: Richard taking on favored foe
Richard has excellent numbers against the Cubs. He made just one start against the Cubs last season, tossing a five-hit shutout, and he has not allowed a run in his last 13 2/3 innings against the Cubs, with his only run allowed in the second inning of that first start on Aug. 18, 2010.

• The Padres have won four straight games for the first time since since Sept. 9-12, 2012 (one vs. Arizona, three vs. St. Louis).

Cubs: Movin' on up
Reliever Carlos Marmol is two relief appearances shy of passing Lee Smith (452) for most all time with the Cubs.

• Anthony Rizzo's 19 RBIs this month are the second most in franchise history for a left-handed hitter in April, trailing only Billy Williams' 25 in 1970.

• Chicago's bullpen has a 1.59 ERA in its last 11 games.

Worth noting
• Padres outfielder Will Venable has been successful on 20 of his last 21 stolen-base attempts dating back to June 22, 2012.

• Samardzija was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts against the Padres last season.

• Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has appeared in 220 straight games, the longest active streak in the NL. Comments