Bad luck? Jeff Samardzija sounds like someone who knows he’ll be in a much better place soon enough. Like pitching in the All-Star Game and feeling the adrenaline rush of a pennant race with his new team.
Sure, there’s frustration, but at least Samardzija is in line for the get-out-of-jail-free card Matt Garza talked about – while still waiting for his first win this season.
The day after beating Masahiro Tanaka at Wrigley Field, the Cubs unraveled in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees, robbing Samardzija in a 4-2 game that took 13 innings and lasted four hours and 39 minutes.
Samardzija woke up on Wednesday morning as the first pitcher since 1977 to lead his league in ERA (1.62) this late in the season despite not having a win at the time. He lowered his ERA to 1.46 with seven scoreless innings against the Evil Empire.
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“We’re not wasting anything,” Samardzija said. “With modern technology, every game pretty much gets seen. I don’t think it’s any secret what I’m doing.”
Meaning among baseball’s decision-makers?
“Bingo,” Samardzija said.
The belief is the Yankees don’t have enough elite prospects to swing a Samardzija trade this summer, according to sources close to the situation, but New York will have a definite appeal when the pitcher becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.
The money’s good and the Steinbrenner mentality combined with the Yankee Stadium/YES Network business model means the team will try to win every year. Or else.
If only the Cubs had a Jumbotron in left field to show the leaders in run differential and the Baseball America farm-system rankings. Samardzija clearly has deep reservations about this rebuilding project, how long it’s going to take, as well as a high opinion of his own value as a starting pitcher.
Samardzija (0-4) wants that win-now pressure, and again looked like a No. 1 guy in front of the 34,808 fans taking in Derek Jeter’s last game at Clark and Addison.
“They bring the whole crew when they come,” Samardzija said. “It’s really nice to see how they run things. There’s a certain method to their madness with the guys they pick and the guys they decide to put in pinstripes.
“All their guys are professionals. They come out and they play every day. As you saw today, they’ll play 13 innings. That’s what you need.”
While the Yankees (24-21) keep finding ways to win, the Cubs have somehow gone 1-9 in Samardzija’s 10 starts, putting up the National League’s worst record (16-28) and a “For Sale” sign for the trade deadline.
[ALSO: Another meltdown costs Cubs sweep of Jeter, Yankees]
The Cubs wasted Samardzija’s seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 Opening Day loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. They watched the weird bounces during a meltdown loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 23, the perfect ending to Wrigley Field’s centennial. They let him go nine innings and throw 126 pitches, only to get a no-decision in a loss to the White Sox.
Cubs manager Rick Renteria wouldn’t get drawn into another Pitch-Count-Gate controversy on Wednesday afternoon, pulling Samardzija after 95 pitches. Pinch-hitter Ryan Kalish tripled into the right-field corner and scored an insurance run on Emilio Bonifacio’s bunt.
“I felt pretty good,” Samardzija said. “I think I could have went out there a little longer, but he’s pretty adamant about taking me out. He told me the bullpen would pick me up, so I let him do it.
“It is what it is.”
The ninth inning saw a throwing error from a Gold Glove second baseman (Darwin Barney) and a blown save from the new closer (Hector Rondon) who had gone 5-for-5 in those situations, holding the opponent scoreless in 18 of his 20 appearances. The longest-tenured player on the team knows all about Cubbie Occurrences.
“What can I say to him?” Renteria said. “I can say he did a great job. He did everything he was supposed to do. Again, it’s no consolation to him. (But) it doesn’t take away from his efforts.
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“His performances are continuing to speak to his professionalism, his ability to pitch. This was a tough loss for the Cubs. This is beyond individuals, quite frankly. (But he) continues to shine.”
The last time Samardzija won a game was Aug. 24, 2013, when Dale Sveum still managed the team and Renteria worked as the San Diego Padres bench coach. Dioner Navarro caught that 3-2 victory at Petco Park. The outfielders that night included Cole Gillespie and Brian Bogusevic, as well as new baseball operations assistant Darnell McDonald. Kevin Gregg saved the game.
The Cubs will keep churning through players – remember him? – until The Core comes together. Almost certainly without Samardzija.
When Samardzija finally gets a ‘W’ next to his name, everyone can focus exclusively on the trade rumors that will surround him leading up to the July 31 deadline. Instead of talking about the evolution of a homegrown pitcher, it will be sell, sell, sell.
For a season with so much noise about rooftops and mascots and a trashed birthday cake – plus selling Wrigley 100 nostalgia and opponents like Jeter – that will be a fitting way to leave “THE PARTY OF THE CENTURY.”
It’s not even Memorial Day and Samardzija already sounds like a goner.
“You take it with how it goes,” he said. “It doesn’t always go the right way. But in the end, things usually tend to even out.”