Jeff Samardzija bottled up all the frustration, staying on message during the two-plus minutes he had to sit inside the Wrigley Field interview room/dungeon.
The Cubs completely collapsed during Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a fitting way to celebrate the iconic ballpark’s 100th anniversary.
Baseball Reference sent out a mind-blowing tweet, identifying Samardzija (1.53 ERA) as the only pitcher in the last 100 years to go seven-plus innings and allow two runs or less in his first five games of a season – and not get a win.
“Big day out there,” Samardzija said afterward. “You want to show up. We had a good turnout for the fans, a lot of former players in the crowd. Everyone went out and battled. It just didn’t turn out the way we wanted to.”
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The Cubs had ushers wear pointy party hats over ski caps on a 40-degree day with the winds moving at 10 mph. They brought out the Chicago Federals throwback uniforms, the Northwestern University marching band and the Navy Color Guard. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers got huge cheers as the organist played “Bear Down, Chicago Bears.”
Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson were in the house. There hasn’t been a real thaw in the cold war between the Cubs and Sammy Sosa (not invited), while Kerry Wood couldn’t make the pregame ceremony. Let them eat cupcakes (10,000 from Jewel-Osco).
Samardzija – the longest-tenured player on the team, someone who grew up in Northwest Indiana going to Cubs games – left this one in the eighth inning with a 5-2 lead.
“I’m going out and doing my job,” Samardzija said. “Regardless of the last time out, you have a short memory as a pitcher. You start carrying over start-to-start, that’s when it starts to snowball on you. You just keep doing your work and going out there and competing for the team and hope for the best.”
The Cubs watched a worst-case scenario in the ninth inning: Pedro Strop walked two batters. Starlin Castro committed his first error in 14 games. Martin Prado’s groundball bounced off second base and ricocheted into shallow right-center field for a two-run single.
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Samardzija cut off a reporter asking about another weird play at Clark and Addison: “I didn’t see it.”
Arizona’s Aaron Hill lifted a flyball down the right-field line. Justin Ruggiano sprinted after it, missed the catch and slid into the bullpen mound in foul territory, making it a two-run triple. Ruggiano needed help walking off the field before going for an MRI on his left hamstring, with a trip to the disabled list becoming a possibility.
Samardzija is winless in his last 11 starts and has made eight consecutive quality starts dating back to last September. But he’s pitching like someone who will be a difference-maker in a pennant race if – when – the Cubs trade him this summer.
“He did everything he could do,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He keeps pitching the way he’s pitching, he’s going to have victories.”
Just probably for another team.