Jeff Samardzija is coming off an uncharacteristically rough start, while Randy Wolf was riding high after his first win in two years.
On Saturday, the two veterans with extremely contrasting styles hook up in the middle of three games between the Marlins and Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Samardzija has been one of the hard-luck stories of the MLB season. The right-hander is just 1-5 despite a 2.54 ERA, which inflated in his last start, when he gave up eight runs in three innings against the Brewers. Prior to that start, the Cubs' ace had compiled a 1.68 ERA.
Wolf, meanwhile, has dealt with some tough luck on a personal note. The lefty has undergone two Tommy John surgeries, with the most recent one causing him to miss all of 2013. So when he beat the Rays in his last outing, it marked his first big league win since 2012.
Wolf is striving to prove he still has something left in a career that began with the Phillies in 1999.
How much so?
"At minimum, 2014 left," Wolf said. "I feel like I have a pretty good routine. I throw the same as I've always thrown. It's not like I was a flamethrower ever in my career. The fact that I've always thrown 88 [mph] -- it's not like I've had to make some huge adjustments."
Samardzija has been showing all season he is one of the top right-handers in the game. He's providing quality innings and starts on a team that has had its struggles but has shown improvement of late.
"There have been a lot of games this year where we've maybe not had the ability to overcome and win a ballgame," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "But I still think that, for the most part, there have been many games where we fell a little short but we didn't quit."
Wolf has plenty of experience pitching at Wrigley Field, where he is 3-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 11 career starts. Lifetime on the road, the lefty is 69-64 (4.35).
Samardzija, who will be making his 13th start of the season, is 2-1 with a save and a 5.46 career ERA against the Marlins.
Cubs: Rizzo raking vs. lefties
Anthony Rizzo might have been a bit unsure of himself against a veteran lefty like Wolf a year ago, but this season, the lefty-swinging Cubs first baseman welcomes left-handed pitching. Rizzo entered Friday hitting .333 (19-for-57) with four home runs and 13 RBIs against lefties this season, a big jump from last year's .189 average.
In addition, Rizzo's 13 RBIs were tied with Atlanta's Freddie Freeman for second in the National League behind Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (15).
Rizzo's average was also the second-highest among NL left-handed hitters (trailing only Philadelphia's Ben Revere's .345 mark), while his 10 walks against left-handers were the most in the NL.
Marlins: Furcal moving closer to return
Rafael Furcal resumed his rehab assignment on Thursday, playing second base for Double-A Jacksonville. The 36-year-old, given the day off on Wednesday, started his assignment at Class A Jupiter before progressing a level in competition as he works himself back from a left hamstring strain and a right groin strain.
There remains no firm date for Furcal to rejoin the Marlins. Foremost, the team wants him to be healthy.
"The most encouraging thing is he's moving around better," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said. "He's feeling good. He's able to go left and right, and it looks like his legs are in shape, and he's swinging the bat good."
Ed Lucas and Donovan Solano have been starting at second base since Derek Dietrich was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.
Because Furcal has been out all this season with leg issues -- and he missed all of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery -- the veteran is getting as many rehab games as possible. It is doubtful he would join the Marlins on their road trip, which continues this weekend in Chicago and next week at Texas.
"It's just a matter of him continuing to stay healthy and moving around," Redmond said. "I'm not sure when that day will come when he will be ready. All the reports I've got are he's feeling better and he should be on his way to Miami at some point."
• Indications are Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, on the seven-day concussion disabled list, will end up being transferred to the 15-day DL. The veteran backstop was clipped in the mask on a foul ball in a series last weekend against the Braves at Marlins Park. He has yet to be cleared for baseball activities.
• Marcell Ozuna has hit safely in seven straight games, and 10 of 11.
• Christian Yelich went 1-for-6 on Friday, snapping a four-game hitless string in which he was 0-for-11.
• Chris Coghlan drove in a run on Friday for the Cubs, and he has three RBIs in his last six games. Coghlan didn't pick up an RBI in his first 18 games.
• Nate Schierholtz picked up his 500th career hit on Friday with a single in the fifth inning off Nathan Eovaldi.