Where Jeff Samardzija ends the 2014 season is a mystery, but on Thursday he'll be back where he started the campaign.
Samardzija will be back on the PNC Park mound for the first time since Opening Day -- when he shut down the Pirates -- as the Cubs finish a four-game set in Pittsburgh.
One of the National League's best pitchers and a potential Trade Deadline mover, Samardzija started his season with seven shutout innings against the Pirates, giving up five hits while striking out three. That outing set the stage for things to come for the 6-foot-5 right-hander.
For one, Samardzija's numbers have been great. He's gone at least seven innings in nine of his 13 starts, and he's gathered a 2.54 ERA, 75 strikeouts and a 1.13 WHIP in 85 innings.
The second trend that started on March 31 was a lack of run support, and therefore, wins for Samardzija. The Cubs have scored two runs or fewer in eight of Samardzija's outings, which has contributed to just two wins -- the second of which came in his last start, a 5-2 victory over Miami on Saturday. It was a rebound for Samardzija, who gave up eight runs to the Brewers in his worst start of the season on June 1.
"The way I've been throwing all year, it was easy for me to throw [the Milwaukee game] aside," Samardzija said after allowing just two runs in seven innings to the Marlins. "It felt good to go out there today and do my job, especially after times like that. It's the most important thing to bounce back."
Edinson Volquez will take the mound for the Pirates in the series finale. The 30-year-old right-hander is 3-5 with a 4.27 ERA this season, and 5-0 lifetime against the North Siders, with a 3.60 ERA.
Volquez has not made a start against the Cubs this year, but he did face them for two shutout innings in the final game of that season-opening series.
Pirates: Cole set for bullpen session
The Pirates received bad news about one injured starter Wednesday when Francisco Liriano was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique. But the team did have some promising news about Gerrit Cole
Cole, who was put on the DL on Sunday with right shoulder fatigue, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday, according to manger Clint Hurdle. Cole, who threw a ball Monday for the first time since he thought something was wrong with his shoulder after a June 3 start, also threw from 90 feet on Tuesday and played long toss Wednesday.
Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Cole's Major League debut, and in those 365 days, the hard-throwing righty has registered 205 innings, counting postseason play. In 2014, Cole is 6-3 with a 3.64 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 12 starts.
Cubs: Bonifacio gets day off against Bucs
Nobody was expecting Emilio Bonifacio to keep up the blistering pace he was setting with the bat against the Pirates earlier in the season.
Bonifacio was 16-for-30 in two April series against Pittsburgh. As a leadoff hitter, he reached base five of six times to start the game, going 4-for-5 with a walk.
He came back to earth in the first two games of this week's series, going 1-for-9 with two strikeouts, and the utility infielder was out of the starting lineup on Wednesday before pinch-hitting and grounding out in the ninth inning of the Cubs' 4-2 loss.
• Andrew McCutchen added two more extra-base hits to his June resume Wednesday, with a homer and double. McCutchen has 13 of them this month -- seven doubles and six homers -- to just three singles. His slugging percentage this month is 1.079.
• Cubs starter Jason Hammel gave up his first run since May 25 on Wednesday, and the Pirates were the first team to tag the righty for at least four runs since the Cardinals did so on May 15.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.