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CIN@CHC: Samardzija fans seven in solid outing

On Wednesday, Wrigley Field will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and Cubs catcher John Baker will think about all the other players who have stood on the field in the last century.

"This field is kind of like a soldier -- it's lasted for so long," Baker said. "More than anything, I think about the privilege to step out on to it. Rarely in baseball do you get the chance to stand on the same spot where the all-time great players have stood on and played on the same field.

"One of the special things about golf is people can go to St. Andrews and Augusta and play," he said. "In baseball, you think of the new stadium in Washington and the new stadium in Miami and Shea Stadium is gone, and that was new in the '60s. This place and Fenway Park are one of the few places left where you can walk out and stand at home plate and be at the same place Babe Ruth stood and Ted Williams stood. I think that's the most special aspect of this entire ballpark."

The Cubs and D-backs will wear throwback uniforms to reflect the 100-year anniversary, although neither will be wearing jerseys from their respective club. The Cubs will wear the Chi-Feds jerseys to represent the first team that played at Wrigley, which was then Weegham Park. The D-backs will wear versions of the Kansas City Packers' uniforms. The Chi-Feds played the Packers on April 23, 1914.

Taking the hill for the Cubs will be Jeff Samardzija, who enters the game with a 1.29 ERA. Despite the strong start to the season, he's still looking to notch his first victory of the year. The D-backs will counter with left-hander Wade Miley on the historic occasion.

"There's a lot of history in this stadium," Arizona catcher Miguel Montero said. "It's pretty cool to be able to play in a stadium where a lot of Hall of Famers have played. It's something that we look forward in the future to tell our kids that we played on this field where so much has happened. It's pretty cool to be here for the anniversary."

Fans will be asked to sing "Happy Birthday" in the fifth inning, and several Cubs alums, including Hall of Famers Ernie Banks and Billy Williams, will return for pregame festivities.

"There's a little kid in every one of us that comes out when we see former players who have been here," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Their experiences are unique."

However, no team has celebrated a championship at Wrigley Field. Is there anything about the ballpark that makes Renteria think that can't happen?

"No," Renteria said. "The game is defined and starts and ends with the players. Hopefully, when we're coaching and managing, we're able to help direct and stay out of the way when we have to."

Arizona did not become a state until 1912, and the D-backs, obviously, weren't in existence 100 years ago. Manager Kirk Gibson does have a good sense of the significance of the moment.

"History, I think, means more to you as you grow a little bit older and you spend time in a place and you start to appreciate it," Gibson said. "The tradition and the history and the atmosphere, you come in here and you start looking into some of the stories and things that went on here, it's well worth it. We're certainly happy to be here and a part of history."

Cubs president Theo Epstein knows about historical ballparks, having spent so much time with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

"When it comes to the 100th anniversary, for me, I think of how Wrigley is the epicenter of fans' connection to the Cubs and it represents something so important to this franchise and the fans," Epstein said. "It not only connects Wrigley to the fans of the team, but also generations of fans to one another. ... It's the epicenter of the fan's connection to the team and for a lot of families, it's an important familial place because of so much bonding and so many good times have gone on here despite the losing.

"We all look forward to the day when the crowd and the energy in the ballpark is focused on the ninth-inning comeback the Cubs are going to have instead of the seventh-inning stretch," he said.

For Chicago's Carlos Villanueva, pitching at Wrigley Field is surreal.

"This park, it's a different aura," Villanueva said. "I was fortunate in my first year to start a game here in September. You grow up in the Dominican and you get WGN-TV back home, and we watched the Cubs games, and it looked so much different on TV. You see the ivy and the wind and the people.

"The fact that I was here, it's almost like I didn't want to pitch, I just wanted to sit and watch a game as a fan," he said. "I couldn't believe I was actually in this park. You start thinking about all the people and everyone has seen the videos of years ago and the people who were playing here. It's crazy."

It's been 100 years of baseball at Clark and Addison streets.

"Obviously, the dimensions, the ivy, the basket, how more people come for day games than night games, the rooftops -- it's definitely special and it's something you can't replicate," Villanueva said of Wrigley Field. "I always joke around and tell people nobody can understand what it feels like to be a Cubbie unless you've been one. Wrigley is all part of it. We get little renovations done and it'll be around for 100 more years. In this next century, let's have at least 25 championships."

Cubs: Start me up
Samardzija will make his fifth start of the season Wednesday for the Cubs, still looking for his first win. The right-hander ranks among the top five in the National League with a 1.29 ERA, giving up just four earned runs over 28 innings. He's posted quality starts in his last seven games, but is 0-3 with a 2.11 ERA in those games.

The Cubs' starting pitching has done well. Samardzija is just an example of what's been a pattern the Cubs would like to change.

"Unfortunately, we've fallen victim to the same early season trends like the last few years where we have closer issues, hitting with runners in scoring position issues and those have contributed to us getting off to a rockier start than one might expect based on the starting pitching we've gotten," said Epstein. "It's kind of been a trend for three years now."

The good news for the Cubs is that Travis Wood and Jason Hammel have picked up wins in the last two games, and both posted quality starts.

D-backs: In search of production
The D-backs have searched for answers to their poor start to the season and have come up empty.

Multiple meetings have been held and, while the players say they have been good talks, they also realize that it is going to take more than that if they hope to salvage a sinking season.

"We need guys to go 4-for-4, guys to step up, drive in runs, [pitchers] go seven, eight, nine innings," veteran Eric Chavez said. "We can't talk anymore. There's enough meetings and we've tried it all. Between the lines is the only thing that counts at this point."

Veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy was at a loss to explain the struggles after his start Tuesday night.

"I've been on a few bad teams, but it's usually been spaced out with some positivity and some rays of hope and this is just a different animal right now," he said. "Everybody has their answers and I don't know what the right one is. Everybody is looking and searching and doing everything you can do, but it just keeps happening and happening."

Worth noting:
• Hammel has four quality starts in his four outings, and leads the Major Leagues with a 0.69 WHIP, giving up 14 hits and five walks over 27 2/3 innings.

• Renteria said Mike Olt will start Wednesday. Olt hit his team-leading fourth home run on Tuesday in the 9-2 win over the D-backs, and three of his four homers have come at Wrigley Field.

• Starlin Castro extended his hitting streak to six games, and has hit safely in all 11 home games for the Cubs. He's 18-for-45 (.400) at Wrigley Field this year.

• Fans are encouraged to arrive early for Wednesday's game. Pregame festivities will start around 12:30 p.m. CT.

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