The St. Louis Cardinals finally broke out of an offensive slump in the opener of their series against the Chicago Cubs, but it wasn't enough to prevent them from losing a season-high fourth straight.
They haven't scored many runs over the last month for Shelby Miller, but he hasn't exactly done his part on the mound.
Miller returns to the rotation after a quick trip to the bullpen to get some extra rest, and he'll look to end a poor stretch of starts Saturday in the second of three games between these NL Central rivals at Wrigley Field.
The right-hander went 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA in his first nine starts but is 1-6 with a 5.65 ERA in his last 10. He's 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA in his past five, but the Cardinals (54-48) have handed Miller one or no runs four times while losing all five of those outings.
They scored three times in the first inning in a 7-6 loss in Friday's series opener after totaling five runs in dropping their previous three. It was their most runs and hits (12) in seven games.
Miller (7-8, 4.25) pitched a scoreless inning Sunday against the Dodgers despite allowing two hits and a walk. His last start was July 10, when he gave up four runs in five innings of a 9-1 loss to Pittsburgh. He walked four and is among the major league leaders with 55.
''I felt a little tired (before), but at the same time, you always want to be out there,'' Miller said. ''Right now, I feel really strong. My body is where it needs to be.''
Miller has made one start against Chicago, giving up two hits and striking out five over five scoreless innings of a 5-2 win June 17, 2013.
Chicago (42-59) has split the first four contests on a 10-game homestand after losing 11 of its previous 13. Luis Valbuena's two-run homer in the seventh inning put the Cubs ahead Friday, and Ryan Sweeney had four RBIs.
"We've had a rough couple of weeks and we have to keep a positive attitude and play with the guys we have here," Sweeney, who also homered, told MLB's official website. "We can't really look at what's going on outside of the lines. We just have to focus on what we're doing and play hard every day."
The Cubs now turn to Jake Arrieta (5-2, 2.12), who lost for the first time in nine starts Sunday after giving up three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-2 defeat in Arizona while battling a stomach virus. The right-hander has allowed six runs in his last 14 1-3 innings after giving up five in his previous 45 1-3.
Arrieta has pitched well since joining this rivalry, going 1-0 with a 0.55 ERA in three starts. He gave up one run but walked five in four innings of a 4-3, 12-inning loss at St. Louis on May 13 after going 5 1-3 innings and striking out seven in a 3-0 win at Wrigley Field 10 days earlier.
Matt Adams is 4 for 5 and Jhonny Peralta has gone 5 for 10 with a pair of doubles against Arrieta. However, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay are a combined 0 for 24 with 10 strikeouts when facing him.
Carpenter and Holliday each went 3 for 5 with a home run Friday. Carpenter is 6 for 13 with two solo homers and a double in the last three games.