The veteran right-hander looks to continue his strong start while trying to help the visiting Cubs sweep the lowly Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Originally expected to be a stop-gap while starters Matt Garza and Scott Baker recovered from injuries, Villanueva (1-0, 1.53 ERA) has likely found a permanent home in Chicago's rotation. He's allowed five runs - four off solo homers - and struck out 21 with six walks in 29 1-3 innings over four starts.
However, he's been let down by a bullpen that failed to hold leads in three of those outings. That was the case in Tuesday's 4-2, 10-inning win at Cincinnati when Villanueva left with one out in the ninth but was charged with the tying run after Carlos Marmol allowed an RBI single.
"He's been outstanding," manager Dale Sveum told the Cubs' official website. "To stick with a game plan is the ultimate dream for a pitching coach and a manager to be able to say, 'Just do this and you'll get these guys out,' and he's able to pull it off."
Villanueva last faced the Marlins (5-19) out of the bullpen in 2010, but his last start against them came in 2008. He's 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts versus Miami.
He will try to help the Cubs (9-14) complete their first four-game sweep since Aug. 1-4, 2011, at Pittsburgh. Chicago has scored 11 runs in the first three of the set but allowed seven and won two by one run, including 3-2 on Saturday.
The Cubs have yielded 10 runs while winning four of five. That suspect bullpen has not been charged with a run over 12 innings during that stretch."The bullpen's been unbelievable this entire road trip," said Sveum, whose club is 4-5 on a 10-game trek.
David DeJesus had two hits, including a tiebreaking single in the seventh, to help Chicago to a fifth straight win over Miami. DeJesus is batting .324 (11 for 34) with four RBIs in his last 11 games.
Giancarlo Stanton hit an estimated 472-foot homer, his first of the season, for Miami.
The Marlins were last swept in a four-game home set by St. Louis from Aug. 4-7, 2011."We did some good things," manager Mike Redmond said, "but I feel like I'm saying the same thing every single night, and I really am, we're right there."
Stanton, who hit 71 homers the last two seasons, is batting .209, but has recorded all five of his RBIs in the last six contests.
Former Cubs prospect and scheduled Miami starter Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 3.81) is 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in seven starts against the team that drafted him in 2001, then traded him in a deal for Juan Pierre in 2005.
The right-hander yielded three runs in five innings of an 8-5 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader on a chilly night at Minnesota on Tuesday for Miami's most recent victory.
|April 14, 2013||Steve Clevenger||60-Day DL||Left oblique strain|
|April 13, 2013||Steve Clevenger||Day-to-Day||Left oblique injury|
|April 13, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|March 31, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
|March 31, 2013||Scott Baker||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|March 31, 2013||Darwin Barney||15-Day DL||Left knee laceration|
|April 17, 2013||Adeiny Hechavarria||15-Day DL||Bruised left elbow|
|April 13, 2013||Justin Ruggiano||Day-to-Day||Groin|
|April 12, 2013||Giancarlo Stanton||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|April 04, 2013||Casey Kotchman||Day-to-Day||Strained left hamstring|
|April 04, 2013||Casey Kotchman||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|March 31, 2013||Alfredo Silverio||60-Day DL||Sprained right elbow|
MIAMI (AP) -- When Giancarlo Stanton hits, runs and wins come a lot more easily for the Miami Marlins .
Stanton homered twice and drove in four runs Sunday, and Miami beat the Chicago Cubs 6-4 to avert a four-game sweep.
The Marlins improved to 6-19, still worst in the majors, and 3-10 at home. They benefited from a rare offensive outburst, scoring more than three runs for only the fifth time this season and twice coming from behind.
Stanton led the way, showing further signs he has shaken a prolonged slump to start the season.
"It was just a matter of time," manager Mike Redmond said. "This guy is a special player. He's a game-changer."
Nick Green also hit a homer, and confessed he didn't remember his last one because it came so long ago - in 2009.
Green said the return of Stanton's power stroke gave the rest of the Marlins a boost.
"It's huge for this team," Green said. "Everybody expects him to hit a home run or get a guy in every single time, which isn't possible. But having him get his confidence back is the biggest thing to lift our team up."
Ricky Nolasco (2-2) gave up three runs in seven innings and retired the final 15 batters he faced.
Stanton, who led the NL in slugging last year, waited 65 at-bats to hit his first homer Saturday. He hit another in the first inning off Carlos Villanueva to put Miami ahead 2-1.
The All-Star right fielder singled home a run and later scored in the sixth. He homered again leading off in the eighth against Kameron Loe and finished 3 for 3 to raise his average to .243.
Stanton had been 0 for 4 with four strikeouts previously against Loe. The multihomer game was his seventh.
"When you see guys hit balls that hard, that's pretty fun to watch," Redmond said. "It takes that pressure off everybody. Everybody is, `OK, we can relax now. I don't have to carry the weight of the offense.' When he's going good, we have a chance to do some damage."
Stanton didn't talk with reporters after the game.
"Even though he was struggling, guys like that are due to break out," said Villanueva (1-1). "Obviously you don't want it to happen against your team. I made a couple of mistakes on him, and he took advantage."
Villanueva allowed four runs in six innings, raising his ERA to 2.29.
Nolasco fell behind 3-2 when he permitted the first four batters to reach in the third inning, then didn't allow another baserunner. He improved to 5-2 against the team that drafted him in 2001.
Chicago's Dioner Navarro homered in the ninth off Steve Cishek , who nonetheless earned his third save in four chances.
The Cubs' poor hitting with runners in scoring position persisted. They went 1 for 8 in those situations.
"We're out there battling right to the last inning, and you saw that again today," manager Dale Sveum said. "It's just one of those things you have to work through."
Chicago, last in the NL Central, heads home after going 4-6 on a three-city trip.
Stanton's first-inning homer was the only hit allowed by Villanueva until the sixth, when Juan Pierre singled with one out and stole second. Stanton hit an RBI single and took second on the throw home, then scored on a two-out single by Donovan Solano that put Miami ahead to stay, 4-3.
Green drove in his first run this season with a homer off Loe in the seventh.
Anthony Rizzo 's double off the wall scored David DeJesus from first base in the Cubs' first. Villanueva and DeJesus singled to start the third, and Starlin Castro followed with a two-run double that gave Chicago a 3-2 lead.
NOTES: Marlins 1B Joe Mahoney sat out and is day to day with a tight right hamstring. ... SS Castro made a diving catch of Solano's liner to end the first inning. ... Beginning Monday against San Diego, the Cubs play 16 of their next 19 games at home. ... The Marlins improved to 82-81 against the Cubs. ... Two of the game's top young pitchers will square off Monday when the Marlins' Jose Fernandez goes against the Mets' Matt Harvey .