SAN FRANCISCO – The Cubs ambushed Jeff Samardzija with a beer shower after he finally got a “W” next to his name.
You could smell Samardzija’s Bud Light cologne as he stood at his locker after Monday’s 8-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs cranked up the music and celebrated inside AT&T Park’s visiting clubhouse.
Samardzija guessed he got his last beer shower after he earned his first career save in the whirlwind summer of 2008, and he partied when the Cubs clinched the division that September.
“It’s been awhile,” Samardzija said. “I’d rather just drink the beer than pour it on me, but, whatever.”
The Cubs won’t be popping champagne bottles anytime soon. But as the most sought-after pitcher on the trade market, Samardzija could still get the chance to put on goggles and spray the room somewhere in October.
“I smell great,” Samardzija said. “They got me. This game will tell you a lot about yourself, man. You just got to keep doing your work and go start to start. Every start’s a new start. It’s a new day. Guys played amazingly for me today out there. I know they’ve been wanting it as much as I did.”
Memorial Day is a mile marker on the long road to September. The Cubs are 19-30 and trapped in last place and will be sellers. Samardzija had woken up with a 1.46 ERA, the lowest in major-league history without a win through the first 10 starts of a season.
Beating the best team in baseball felt like par for the course in this wacky season of Cubbie Occurrences. It’s everything from CakeGate, a Comiskey Park mural on Wrigley Field, Ricketts vs. Rooftops and Manny Being Manny.
A Big Z moment would have been understandable, but Samardzija kept his composure on the mound and during some edgy postgame news conferences inside Wrigley Field’s interview room/dungeon.
Were you ever close to going off?
“Not really,” Samardzija said. “I get more mad at myself when I have bad pitch selections and things like that. Throughout the year, I feel like I’ve been pretty happy with how I’ve been pitching. The ball just hasn’t bounced my way. And if you start letting that stuff get to you, then it’s probably going to snowball on you.”
All along, Samardzija (1-4, 1.68 ERA) believed in karma and that things would even out (though a cynic could interpret that as his luck changing once he’s traded to a contender). Two industry sources doubted the Giants (32-19) have the pieces needed to put together a deal, while a National League source heard the Colorado Rockies have explored the idea of making a run at Samardzija.
“People try to downplay the whole record thing,” Samardzija said. “But as a starting pitcher, I think it’s important. I do think there’s something to be said about it and how you pitch. I care.”
This ended an unbelievable run for Samardzija, whose last win came Aug. 24, 2013 in San Diego. He lasted seven innings on a sunny afternoon by the San Francisco Bay, performing in front of the 272nd consecutive sellout crowd at AT&T Park.
“It’s a relief for everybody,” manager Rick Renteria said.
There was a here-we-go-again feeling when Samardzija’s fielding error led to an unearned run in the first inning. But he slammed a game-tying double off the right-field wall in the fifth inning and scored a go-ahead run. He notched double-digit strikeouts (10) for the sixth time in his career and didn’t walk anyone while giving up four runs.
“Not once has he been negative about the run support or not having a win,” said outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who homered for the first time this season against his old team. “He’s behind the team every day and he works his butt off.”
“He’s been the same every day,” second baseman Darwin Barney said. “He comes in and he likes his job. He’s a good teammate. You can’t get five or 10 or 20 wins until you get that first one.”
Samardzija curiously pitched to one batter in the eighth inning after hitting for himself, throwing 109 pitches and not looking too happy when Renteria took the ball.
“He told me before I went out it was going to be a quick hook,” Samardzija said.
So Samardzija’s teammates picked him up and finished the job. And then poured Bud Light all over him.