There was a lot of adversity to overcome for Jeff Samardzija Saturday night.
First there was the nearly two-and-a-half-hour rain delay, and then, when things finally got going on the North Side, Samardzija’s second pitch was smacked for a leadoff homer off the bat of Gerardo Parra. And though the adversity wouldn’t stop from there, the results did.
Samardzija found himself in plenty of jams on the evening, with just a pair of his 6 1/3 innings of work going 1-2-3. But he escaped, and until he was out of the game that meant no additional runs for the Diamondbacks.
“They’re a fastball-hitting team. They’re really aggressive. I knew they were on it, especially after Parra’s first at-bat, so I kind of started making better pitches, got ahead in the count, used my slider to get ahead in the count,” Samardzija said. “I kind of got back on track there. The splitter was good.”
After allowing the homer in the first, Samardzija loaded the bases with a two-out walk to Parra in the top of the second. But the righty slammed the door on that scoring opportunity with a strikeout of Didi Gregorius. That whiff was the first of six straight for Samardzija.
Three innings later in the fifth, Samardzija again issued a walk that loaded the bases, this one to Miguel Montero. But yet again, a strikeout foiled the D-backs’ threat. He struck out 11 Arizona hitters on the night.
“I kind of stuck with the scouting report. ... I just wanted to stay hard there and try to get a couple double plays,” Samardzija said. “And we ended up getting out of those jams, which is huge. You know that they’re going to have good at-bats against you and make you work. I was pretty pleased with those situations for sure.”
“He’s getting a lot of movement on his fastball. Obviously his split was pretty devastating tonight,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of his pitcher. “They’re a very aggressive team, a very good fastball-hitting team, but Jeff had great stuff again tonight.”
The stuff was good, though a couple of tough innings early forced his pitch count way up. And when he put two of the first three hitters he faced on in the top of the seventh, Samardzija was taken out of the game before he had a chance to make another daring escape.
James Russell relieved Samardzija and eventually gave up a three-run double to Jason Kubel. The two runners Samardzija left out there represented the game-tying runs, and so it would be no decision for the right-hander. The bullpen had further problems, and the Cubs went on to lose the game, 12-4, making it the second time this season Samardzija recorded double-digit strikeouts in a Cubs loss.
Despite the outcome for the team, Saturday’s outing could certainly be dubbed a success for Samardzija, especially given all the adversity thrown his way, be it from Mother Nature, the D-backs or his own doing. In the end, Samardzija felt the team deserved better than the final score indicated.
“I think the outcome of this game is a little skewed just with how we played and how the game went,” he said. “It just got away from us toward the end, but we were right there battling through the whole game. They’re a first-place team for a reason. They’re scrappy and they know how to play. They move runners over and they do the right things. They take good at-bats and make you work as a pitcher. We’re in for another dogfight tomorrow for sure.”