Sveum: Samardzija has to avoid big inning

CINCINNATI -- Maybe Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum was sending a subtle message to pitcher Jeff Samardzija before his start on Wednesday.

"Today is a big day for us, to sweep a series on the road so hopefully he can step up and take care of it," Sveum said Wednesday morning.

Sveum is waiting for Samardzija to take that next step. This has been a year of mixed results for him, especially lately. He is coming off two disappointing starts after being handed leads in both. Leading 3-2 against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 4, Samardzija gave up four runs in the sixth inning. The game before that he gave back a 5-0 advantage to the Philadelphia Phillies.

"It's just a matter of calming down these innings," Sveum said. "It's always a big inning for him."

Samardzija is pitching deep into September for the first time as a starter. Last year he was shut down but this time he's vowed to finish strong. Three and four starts back he was stellar and now he's had an extra two days to get ready for the Cincinnati Reds.

"He's in unchartered waters now in the big leagues as far as pitching in the last month," Sveum said. "The grind of a whole season and knowing you're not getting shut down and the grind of four more, five more, six more starts. I don't care who you are the body starts wearing down if you've never been there before."

Samardzija is 8-11 on the season and his 4.29 ERA ranks 34th in the National League among starters. If he's going to help the Cubs sweep the Reds he'll have a lot to live up to after Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson shut down Cincinnati over the past two nights. Combined, they gave up one run and walked none. The Reds' offense is predicated on walks -- they have the most in the league. Samardzija needs a complete effort.

"It's just a matter of calming the inning down and understanding that 'I'm just trying to get a ground ball to get out of it instead of striking everyone out' and then it snowballs into a big inning," Sveum said.

The Cubs beat the Reds 2-0 and 9-1 in the first two games of the series. They're looking for their first sweep in Cincinnati since 2001.