With the Padres well back in the National League West and third baseman Chase Headley shipped to New York, the Padres are in need of a spark.
Tyson Ross can provide one. The All-Star right-hander will get the ball opposite righty Edwin Jackson in the rubber match of the three-game set on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
This will be Ross' first start since being named San Diego's 2014 "Heart and Hustle Award" winner by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. The honor, voted on by former players, is given to athletes -- one from each club -- "who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game," according to a release.
Ross has never started against the Cubs -- throwing two scoreless innings of relief in 2010 -- but if his breakout 2014 campaign is any indication, good things await. His ERA (2.70) is good for seventh in the NL, while his WHIP (1.17) ranks 12th.
July has treated Ross particularly well. In four starts, all at least six innings, Ross has allowed three earned runs in 29 innings (0.93 ERA) while striking out 30 against four walks. That stretch includes a shutout of the Reds on July 2 and seven scoreless innings against the Mets on Saturday.
"I didn't have my best slider," Ross said after that start against New York. "But I had a pretty good sinker tonight with a lot of good downward action."
Jackson (5.61 ERA, 1.56 WHIP), meanwhile, will try to reverse his fortunes as well as those of the Cubs. Jackson has struggled most of the season, but especially since the Cubs sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland, increasing his importance in the rotation. He owns a 9.60 ERA (16 runs in 15 innings) since the Cubs-A's blockbuster.
"There's a lot of baseball left," Jackson said after his last start, a three-run, 5 1/3-inning effort against the D-backs. "It's about how you finish. You finish up strong, the first half will be kind of forgotten. You just live in the present."
Jackson owns a career 6.94 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 11 games (nine starts) against San Diego.
Padres: Solarte makes quick impression
It's been quite the six months for Yangervis Solarte -- from Yankees non-roster invite to spring revelation to key piece in the Chase Headley trade -- and on Wednesday, he added another chapter.
He tripled to right field in his first at-bat as a Padre, then scored on Carlos Quentin's ensuing single. The 27-year-old rookie started at second base and scored a second run later in the game.
"He's a pretty dependable player in all areas," San Diego manager Bud Black said before the game. "The scouting report is that he's got good hands, he's a good defender, he swings the bat with some authority from both sides of the plate. The word I get is that he's a pretty steady, polished baseball player. I think that will suit us fine. We'll need him to do some things at the top of the order, get on base and swing the bat like he did in New York."
Prior to the trade, Solarte hit .254/.337/.381 with six homers and 31 RBIs for the Yankees.
Cubs: Epstein says 'our work lies ahead of us'
The Cubs' loaded farm system is a harbinger of success, they hope, but right now it doesn't mean very much. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said as much during a media session Wednesday afternoon.
"We're in last place. Almost by definition, our work lies ahead of us, it's not behind us," Epstein said. "What do we have to do? We have everything to do. We have to continue to build the organization, we have to continue to improve the Major League team. That generation, they're going to break in at some point, and the process of adjusting to the big leagues starts."
Much has been made of Starlin Castro's future with the organization following the acquisition of shortstop prospect Addison Russell from the A's, but Epstein said Castro -- as well as Anthony Rizzo -- are key pieces of the foundation.
"At best, what we've done is put ourselves in a position to make a lot of interesting decisions going forward and hopefully have two of the most important currencies in the game in young players and available payroll dollars and go make some hay," Epstein said. "We're not there yet. We haven't accomplished anything yet. We're in last place, so all of work remains ahead."
• The Padres recalled outfielder Jeff Francoeur before Wednesday's game to replace Cameron Maybin, who was suspended 25 games after twice testing positive for Amphetamine. It is Francoeur's first time back in the Majors since last August with the Giants.
• Thursday's contest will be the rubber game for the season series. After splitting a four-game set in May, the Cubs and Padres have also split the first two this week. Chicago has not taken the season series from the Padres since 2008.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.