Why did the Cubs leave Samardzija in so long?

Why did the Cubs leave Samardzija in so long?
May 6, 2014, 12:30 am
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Tony Andracki

On a bitterly cold night at Wrigley Field, Jeff Samardzija rocked back to fire pitch No. 126 as the Twitter world went insane.

Social media exploded with Cubs fans freaking out about Samardzija's escalating pitch count and wondering why Cubs manager Rick Renteria was leaving the team's ace - and top trade chip - out on the mound, risking possible injury.

"We wanted that game for him," Renteria said. "We just couldn't pull it out."

The Cubs scored just one run behind Samardzija, who allowed only an unearned run in the first inning to the White Sox during the Cubs' 3-1 loss in the Crosstown opener Monday night. The 126 pitches he threw was a new career high.

So was it too many pitches for Samardzija? Was it too risky to leave him out there?

"This whole 100-pitch thing has just become this big facade," Samardzija said. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything. You've gotta go by the guy himself and the type of person he is.

"They let me go and I've proven that I can pitch late in the game. That's good. You always want that."

Samardzija has made his case all season to be pitching late with the game on the line. He has not picked up a win in seven starts, but carries a sparkling 1.62 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 50 innings.

Renteria let Samardzija hit for himself in the bottom of the eighth and even after two walks in the ninth, didn't come out to give his ace the hook. Samardzija got Dayan Viciedo to ground into a double play to end the inning.

"It's good to get the job done and really put it in the back of their mind that there's no reason to take you out," Samardzija said. "You want to pitch late in the game."

The first-year manager said he and Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio were keeping a close eye on Samardzija, but they wanted to get him the win and end the "bad luck" narrative surrounding the big right-hander.

"We wanted that game for him. Absolutely," Renteria said. "He was still strong. In the eighth, he was still blowing [it by guys]. We hoped he'd get through that ninth like he did and score a run and it'd be over, but it didn't work out."

[RELATED: Cubs offense pulls another disappearing act in Crosstown Cup opener]

Renteria said there is no set limit on the number of pitches he would allow Samardzija to throw.

"It depends on an individual," Renteria said. "His stuff was still good. You could see he was still working well, confidently."

With his football career in the past and years spent in the bullpen with the Cubs, Samardzija doesn't have as many miles on his arm as typical 29-year-old pitchers. He's an ultra-competitive guy who wants to stay out on the mound and boasts the size (6-foot-5, 225 pounds) and stamina to keep pumping 95 mph fastballs late in the game, as he did Monday night.

"I was pretty hungry for that one," Samardzija said. "I felt great. I can only base it off how I feel. Certain pitchers, sometimes, you have a little bit harder innings, which kind of makes that 90-95 seem harder than 120.

"I felt good and it's a good sign to be here early in May and be able to throw that many pitches in crummy weather, too."

Who knows how Samardzija will bounce back after this 126-pitch outing. His trade stock rose again Monday night, proving he can be a frontline starter. But any team interested in acquiring Samardzija might be joining Cubs fans in keeping a close eye on his pitch counts.