Now that his record-setting road scoreless streak is behind him, Chris Rusin can focus his attention toward furthering his case to stay in the Chicago rotation heading into 2014.
Rusin had his run of scoreless innings on the road ended at 22 1/3 last Thursday amid a 3-1 loss in Pittsburgh after back-to-back RBI singles by Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez in the fourth inning. The streak was the longest ever by a Cubs left-handed rookie and the longest for any left-handed rookie since Neal Heaton's 23-inning stretch for the Indians from Aug. 9-29, 1983.
"He did a great job against a lineup that kills left-handers," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Rusin after the game. "That was, to me, his most impressive outing."
On Wednesday night in Milwaukee, Rusin will square off against right-hander Tyler Thornburg, another rookie pitching his way into a rotation debate, as the Cubs look to turn around this year's struggles against the Brewers.
Thornburg posted dreadful numbers at Triple-A Nashville, going 0-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 15 starts before he was called up to Milwaukee for good in late June. Since then, he has received five chances to start and has responded with a quality start each time out. Last Thursday, he scattered three hits over six innings to help the Brewers avoid a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.
"He's confident right now," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said after the 5-3 win in St. Louis. "He gets himself in some trouble sometimes, but he's got such good stuff, three plus pitches, and when they're located well, he's going to get people out. … He's pitching well. He goes his six innings, and he really hasn't given up much."
Both teams are looking to take advantage of a brief respite from playing spoiler to the rest of the NL Central during this week's series. The Cubs sit 4 1/2 games behind the Brewers for fourth place in the Central after Tuesday night's 4-3 loss, dropping their record to 5-12 against Milwaukee this season.
Brewers: Gomez clubs home run No. 20
Center fielder Carlos Gomez set a new career high Tuesday with his 20th home run this season, roping a two-run shot over the left-field wall at Miller Park. In the process, Gomez became the sixth center fielder in Brewers history to reach 20 home runs in a season.
• With his 1-for-2 night Tuesday, Aramis Ramirez is batting .357 (10-for-28) against the Cubs after hitting just .217 against his former team in 2012, his lowest average against any divisional opponent last year.
• Double-A Huntsville manager Darnell Coles joined the Brewers on Monday to assist Roenicke over the final weeks of the 2013 season. Huntsville finished 59-79 this season, and corner infielder Jason Rogers earned Brewers Minor League Player of the Year honors. Rogers will accept his award prior to Saturday's game between the Brewers and the Cardinals at Miller Park.
"I think we played well at times and struggled at times," Coles said of the Double-A season. "I think it was just an up-and-down year. But a lot of player development, guys getting better."
Cubs: Samardzija hits 200 Ks in bounceback start
Starter Jeff Samardzija has had an up-and-down 2013 campaign, but Tuesday night he set a few career milestones in escaping one of the valleys in his production this season. Samardzija collected his 200th strikeout of the season in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's game and followed one frame later by passing the 200-inning mark for the season, both firsts for the 28-year-old right-hander.
Samardzija earned his first quality start since Aug. 24, allowing three runs on five hits in seven innings, but he did not factor into the decision. He had allowed 17 earned runs in 18 1/3 innings over his past three starts.
• Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Tuesday that third baseman Josh Vitters, Chicago's No. 1 pick in 2007, would be converted to an outfielder this offseason.
"We're converting him to left field," Epstein said. "He's going to come to Spring Training ready to re-establish himself and force himself into the mix as one of our right-handed-hitting outfielders."
• In four starts against NL Central teams this season, Rusin has allowed six runs on 21 hits and five walks in 22 2/3 innings for a 2.38 ERA.
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy were selected as their teams' nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award. Nominees were chosen based on their dedication to giving back to the community, as well as their outstanding ability on the field.
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.