The Cubs jumped out of the All-Star break playing good baseball, but have recently slid back, losing five of six and eight of 10 entering Thursday's series finale against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
They snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over Philadelphia on Wednesday, but even in a win the Cubs lost catcher Dioner Navarro and rookie left fielder Thomas Neal to injury in the seventh inning.
The Cubs will be without Neal and likely Navarro for Thursday's game against the Phillies, as they send Jeff Samardzija to the mound to oppose Philadelphia right-hander Ethan Martin.
Samardzija has a 2.42 ERA in his last four starts, but the right-hander had to battle to get through six innings in his last start, a 3-0 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday. Samardzija allowed three earned runs on seven hits while walking five and striking out nine.
"Like I said before, the fastball command [wasn't there], throwing strikes to get ahead, and he couldn't do it," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "He battled and got the outs and kept the game close, but obviously the pitch count after six innings, 110 pitches or whatever it was, is way too many."
Samardzija will look to have better luck against Martin, who is making his second career start. In his first outing last Friday, the 24-year-old righty allowed six earned runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Braves.
"It was tough," Martin said after the Phillies' 6-4 loss. "It was a challenge, but I wanted to go out there and prove I could do it. But first time up and being in front of all the fans, coming out, especially out of the dugout to warm up, it's like, 'Wow.'"
Phillies: Utley signs extension
A source told MLB.com on Wednesday that Chase Utley and the Phillies agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension in the $25-30 million range with multiple vesting options.
Utley would have been a free agent at season's end, but Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has said frequently in the past month that he wanted Utley to be a "Phillie for life."
"I've never envisioned wearing another team's uniform," Utley said last month. "I've told [GM Ruben Amaro] what I think about the organization and city of Philly. That's kind of where we're at."
Utley enters Thursday hitting .277 with 16 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs and 43 RBIs this season.
• Roy Halladay plans to throw a five-inning simulated game on Saturday at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., and said he if everything goes well he could begin a rehab assignment next week.
Halladay threw a bullpen session on Monday, but he would not put a timetable on a return to the Phillies.
Halladay original timetable had him back in late August or early September.
"Everything, so far, has gone how we mapped it out," said Halladay, who will be a free agent after this season. "I've felt really good the whole time. To me, it's really important that not only do I feel good, but the evaluation of what I'm doing is important also. I can't just say, 'Hey, I feel good. Bring me back.' The evaluation of what I'm doing and how things are going has to be there too.
"I'm not interested in coming back and pitching at the same level I was early this year. I want to come back and pitch at a high level."
Cubs: Baker's rehab temporarily frozen
The Minor League rehabilitation assignment of right-handed pitcher Scott Baker has been temporarily frozen after his scheduled fifth start with High-A Daytona was postponed three consecutive days due to rain this week.
Baker is recovering from Tommy John surgery and hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2011. Baker will throw bullpen sessions for the next week and have his 30-day rehabilitation window restart on Aug. 14.
Baker struggled in his first four rehab starts with Daytona and Class A Kane County, coughing up 14 earned runs on 20 hits in 12 innings. He had a 4.15 ERA in seven seasons with the Twins.
• Albert Almora, the Cubs' 2012 first-round Draft pick, has been placed on Kane County's seven-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 5, with a groin injury. Almora joined Kane County on May 21 and has played in 61 games, leading the Cougars with a .376 on-base percentage and .329 batting average.
• Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf's 33-game on-base streak was snapped on Wednesday when he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. It was the longest active streak in the big leagues.
• Samardzija enters Thursday with seven career appearances against the Phillies, including one start, and has a 1-2 record and 9.00 ERA.
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.