The trade rumors won't go away until Jeff Samardzija is, in fact, traded. But in case there were any worries about Samardzija's trade stock plummeting from one bad outing, the Cubs ace put those to rest on Saturday.
Samardzija fired seven innings of two-run ball against a surprisingly good Miami side, scattering five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Marlins at Wrigley Field.
Five days ago, Milwaukee lit up Samardzija for eight runs in just three innings in a "trap game," as the right-hander put it. Coming off his first win of the season, Samardzija didn't have his best stuff and was subsequently bludgeoned by the first-place Brewers.
"With the way I've been throwing all year it was easy for me just to put that aside and count it as a wash," Samardzija said. "It felt good to go out there today and do my job, especially after times like that. The most important thing is to bounce back and show that hey, those things happen but it's not who you are."
Samardzija doubled his comically low win total thanks to a pair of solo home runs by Junior Lake and a two-run shot by Emiliio Bonifacio, his first home run of the season. Bonifacio's home run was preceded by a Samardzija single, with the pitcher pulling a grounder past third baseman Casey McGehee into left.
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Prior to Saturday's games, seven National League clubs and nine American League clubs were within three games of a Wild Card spot. Add in six division leaders, and that's 22 clubs that are in the thick of the playoff hunt in early June.
Eventually, the contenders will separate themselves and the playoff race will be whittled down — we're barely two months in the season, after all. But the sweet spot for trading Samardzija will arrive quickly.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria, though, hasn't seen his ace be distracted by the rumors and doesn't expect that to be the case as the trade deadline approaches.
"I think he handles it well," Renteria said. "I think he takes a step back, he deals with it, probably talks about it — I don't know how dismissive he is of it or not — but I know when he takes the hill he's only thinking about pitching."
Few, if any, major league starters can pitch 33 games without running into a bad outing or two. Eight-run starts like the one Samardzija had on Monday will happen — even Pedro Martinez allowed six runs in a start in 2000, a year in which he had a 1.74 ERA — but the key is proving those are anomalies, not harbingers of doom.
Samardzija showed that on Saturday, and contending teams across baseball surely took notice.
"The best thing as a starting pitcher you can have is consistency, that every time you go out there your coach and teammates know what you're going to give them," Samardzija said. "And that's all you can ask for, and that's all I want to do is every time I toe the rubber our team has a really good chance to win the game as long as you do your job."