Samardzija pitches Cubs out of last place

CHICAGO -- Behind the pitching and bat of starter Jeff Samardzija, the Chicago Cubs beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 Wednesday, winning the series and escaping the basement of the National League Central.

Samardzija notched his first victory since opening day, going eight strong innings. His second career home run gave his team an early cushion to work with. Samardzija hit the first pitch he saw from Rockies starter Jon Garland out to center with Darwin Barney on base. The 407-foot shot was his first homer since Sept. 23, 2009.

“I needed to slow down around the bases and enjoy it a little bit,” Samardzija said. “It is a funny game. Sometimes that ball goes into the basket, sometimes it doesn’t.”

The Cubs won their first home series of the season and moved percentage points ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the standings. They had been in last place since April 25.

“Samardzjia got his second win of the season and first win in a while,” said Anthony Rizzo, who was 2-for-3 with an RBI on the night. “He battled the whole game and he even said he didn’t have his best stuff. He pitched his tail off and it was fun to watch that.”

Since beating Pittsburgh on April 1, Samardzija had gone 0-5 with two no-decisions in his last seven starts.

“You know you can’t win them all,” he said. “You are playing against good teams who are professional players themselves. You want to approach it series to series. Every series you win changes that win-loss column and gets momentum going.”

Chicago has won six of their last nine games and may get starter Matt Garza back as early as next week. Garza, who has been out with a lat strain since Feb. 17, will pitch what could be his last minor league rehab start on Thursday.

“We talked about the day we were going to get Garza back in spring training a bit,” Samardzija said. “Obviously he is a great pitcher on the mound and a leader in the clubhouse. It is only going to get better when we get him back here.”

The series victory was the Cubs’ first at home since Aug. 24-26, 2012 against Colorado. The team has now won back-to-back series for the first time in 2013.