SAN DIEGO -- When it comes to starting pitchers, reliability can be tough to come by these days. But reliable is exactly what Jeff Samardzija and Eric Stults have been for their struggling clubs this season.
Neither Samardzija nor Stults has missed a start this year, and both are on pace for more than 200 innings.
Samardzija's Cubs meet Stults' Padres on Saturday evening in the second game of a three-game series at Petco Park.
"Just finishing strong and finishing healthy is a big accomplishment," said Stults, who has been the Padres' most consistent starter. "However many starts I have left, it's about making the most of those starts. You want to finish well -- not only myself, but us as a team."
Samardzija (7-11, 4.12 ERA) is coming off the third complete game of his career. Staked to an early lead against the Nationals on Monday, he pounded the strike zone, as the Cubs cruised to an 11-1 victory.
It was a welcome strong start for Samardzija, who has posted a 5.73 ERA since the start of July.
Stults, meanwhile, was sharp Sunday but picked up a no-decision against Matt Harvey and the Mets. He has posted solid splits at Petco Park, where he is 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA.
Stults says he has not set any specific goals for the rest of the season beyond staying healthy.
"For me, it's not necessarily about setting a statistical goal," Stults said. "My mindset is to be prepared and hopefully give us a chance to win. That's been my mindset all year. Hopefully, if I am prepared and I pitch to the way I'm capable, the statistics will be there."
The statistics have certainly been there for Padres right fielder Will Venable of late. The reigning National League Player of the Week Award winner, he is hitting .362 with a .672 slugging percentage since the All-Star break.
Cubs: Murphy rolling
Third baseman Donnie Murphy has been one of the National League's hottest hitters in August. He has eight home runs since being called up Aug. 4 and is hitting .311 in 17 games this season.
"You ride it out and hope it continues," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said before Friday night's game. "All this stuff, you're evaluating for next year and our needs and things like that. I think people forget how good a defense he's played over there. Right now, he's been an exceptional two-way player."
Murphy hit .265 with 12 homers for Triple-A Iowa this year.
Padres: Blanks set for rehab
Outfielder Kyle Blanks, who has been on the disabled list since July 12 with tendinitis in his left Achilles, will begin his rehab assignment Saturday.
Before Friday's game, the Padres were still discussing whether Blanks would spend a brief stint with Class A Lake Elsinore or head straight to Triple-A Tucson. Manager Bud Black expected Blanks to return shortly after rosters expand Sept. 1.
"If he has his legs underneath him, and he's playing well, and he feels good physically, there's a chance that when we expand we could bring him," Black said.
• In seven at-bats against Stults, Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney has three hits -- all of them doubles.
• A year ago, the Cubs went 2-18 in National League West ballparks. So far this season, they are 6-5.
• Padres closer Huston Street has 16 consecutive scoreless appearances, and he has converted 10 straight save opportunities.