While the Chicago Cubs are in the midst of a fourth consecutive dismal season, Anthony Rizzo continues to provide something positive.
With five home runs in four games, the All-Star first baseman looks to stay hot and help the Cubs secure their first winning home series in more than a month Wednesday night against the San Diego Padres.
Rizzo set a career high and took over the NL home run lead with his 24th and 25th of the season during Chicago's 6-0 victory Tuesday. The reigning NL player of the week is batting .375 (15 for 40) with seven homers and eight RBIs in his last 10 games.
"I'm not stronger than I was last year, I don't think," said Rizzo, who hit 23 home runs in 160 games in 2013.
The former Padre is 7 for 16 and also has three doubles in his last four games against San Diego (43-56) at Wrigley Field.
Rizzo has been one of the few bright spots for the Cubs (41-57), who are 3-11 since trading key starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland on July 4.
Chicago last won a home series by taking two of three against Miami from June 6-8.
Rizzo is 2 for 13 with a double versus San Diego's Ian Kennedy (7-9, 3.62 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA in his last four starts against the Cubs.
Kennedy was 1-1 with a 6.92 ERA at Wrigley before giving up four runs and three hits in seven innings of a 12-4 victory there last season.
The right-hander has allowed a run, seven hits and struck out 17 over 15 innings to go 1-0 in his last two road starts. They were part of a three-start stretch in which Kennedy went 2-0 while yielding two runs in 21 innings prior to Friday, when he gave up four in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets.
Against rookie Kyle Hendricks and two relievers, San Diego managed five hits while being shut out for a league-high 15th time Tuesday.
They'll face another rookie in left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who allowed an unearned run and five hits in five innings of a 6-5 loss at Cincinnati on July 8 in his major league debut. Wada left with a 5-1 lead, but the Cubs bullpen couldn't hold the advantage.
"I was definitely excited to pitch in this environment and enjoyed it," Wada told MLB's official website.
Rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte could make his San Diego debut after he was acquired in Tuesday's deal that sent veteran third baseman Chase Headley to the New York Yankees. Solarte batted .299 with six homers and 28 RBIs in his first 57 games this season, but was 4 for 51 with three RBIs in his last 18.
Despite the extended slump, manager Bud Black is excited to have Solarte in the mix.
"This guy knows how to play," Black said. "We'll utilize him around the diamond. I like the fact that he's versatile."
Solarte went 4 for 12 with five walks against the Cubs earlier this season.
While Solarte could play, outfielder Cameron Maybin certainly won't after testing positive for an amphetamine and being suspended 25 games by Major League Baseball. He's batting .247 with one home run and nine RBIs in 62 games this season.
Maybin, who said he won't challenge the ban, released a statement through the MLB Players Association.
"I have been undergoing treatment for several years for a medical condition, attention deficit disorder, for which I previously had a Therapeutic Use Exemption," he said. "Unfortunately, in my attempts to switch back to a medicine that had been previously OK'd, I neglected to follow all the rules and as a result I tested positive.
"I want to assure everyone that this was a genuine effort to treat my condition and I was not trying in any way to gain an advantage in my baseball career."