After another loss, Cubs 'feel bad' for Samardzija

After another loss, Cubs 'feel bad' for Samardzija
May 16, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

What can you even say anymore?

The narrative surrounding Jeff Samardzija changed only slightly Friday - he didn't have his best stuff - but he still pitched well enough to win and instead ended up with another tough-luck loss as the Cubs fell 4-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs are now 1-8 in games started by Samardzija, despite his 1.62 ERA (which is the second-best mark in Major League Baseball).

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Samardzija has typically been even-keeled in postgame media sessions after his starts, shrugging off the misfortune. But he let some of his frustration come through a little bit Friday.

"No, I'm not happy about it," he said. "It's not like it just goes unnoticed. Obviously I want to win.

"Being a starting pitcher, you have a big say on how the game turns out. If my record isn't where I want it to be, obviously I have to do a better job."

It's hard for a player to do more to get wins than Samardzija has done this season. His ERA has not been above 2.00 at any point this season and he has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his nine starts.

Friday, he wasn't as sharp as he's been earlier this year, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. He lasted just five innings, racking up 99 pitches and throwing a key wild pitch in the first inning.

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But the Cubs made three errors behind him in the first three innings and catcher Welington Castillo let a passed ball slip by him, allowing the Brewers another free base. And the conditions were less than optimal, with 38 degree weather and rain dampening the field.

Samardzija shrugged all that off, refusing to throw his teammates under the bus or blame the weather. As a northern Indiana product, he is used to the wacky turns the weather can take in Chicago.

"We call that Lake Effect snow, right?" he joked after the game, but admitted it was tough to grip the ball early in the contest. "I made a couple adjustments in the last few innings that made a difference. I was grabbing it so hard, just needed to kinda be nice and easy with it and get a little better control.

"But that's starting pitching. There's different elements all the time. You adjust and remember times like these so the next time it happens, you're prepared and you make those adjustments a little quicker."

That quote sums up the leap forward Samardzija has taken this year, emerging as a frontline starter while learning more and more about what it takes to be among the elite arms in the league.

It hasn't helped him this year, but trade rumors are starting to pick up steam as the summer approaches (no matter what the temperature in Chicago is).

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For now, there's not much else the Cubs can do but keep "grinding," a word they continue to use when asked how the team can get Samardzija in the win column.

"It's too bad," Darwin Barney said. "I think he comes out every day and pitches and competes. We want nothing more than to give him some run support. It was the same story today."

The Cubs appeared to change the story, giving the impression the sleepwalking offense in Samardzija starts was a thing of the past with seven hits, two homers and three runs in the first three innings.

But after an inning-ending double play off the bat of Castillo in the third, no Cub reached base until Starlin Castro led off the ninth with a single. A poor sacrifice bunt attempt from pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan erased any chance at a game-tying rally and the Cubs' fate was sealed against Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is 17-for-18 in save situations this season.

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"We feel bad for [Samardzija]," Castro said. "He's done a great job for us. We gotta get his back. He pitched a great game.

"We'll keep grinding and hopefully on his next start, we'll do something more."