7/2 Elbow grease & splits

Jeff Samardzija recovered from his June swoon. Samardzija struck out a career high 11 batters in the Cubs’ 4-1 win over the Braves. The right-hander was coming off a terrible June when he was 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA in five games. On Monday, he gave up four hits over seven innings, and the 11 Ks not only topped his previous high of nine, done April 24 against the Cardinals, but also are the most in a single game by a Cubs starter this year.

“The game was Samardzija,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He kept us off balance the whole night, throwing the 94 mile an hour fastball and he had his split going. There were a few times he would throw it four or five times in a row and we had no chance. … He proved he was better than what those [June] numbers showed.”

It’s all part of growing up.

“You expect him to build on the experiences he had to go through in the last month,” Dale Sveum said. “Sometimes it’s just like hitters — a hitter is hitting .300 and he wants to hit .330 and he comes up with new things and it gets away from him instead of understanding what you are and what made you successful and sticking to that and not getting too complicated.”

The difference? Samardzija said a little “elbow grease” between starts helped him get back on track. The problems in June were more mental than physical.

“I felt I wasn’t giving myself the right opportunity succeed and that’s frustrating, especially with how our team has been playing,” Samardzija said. “You don’t want to be the one guy who lets your team down. I came out today and attacked the zone.”

He wasn’t counting the Ks.

“That has a lot to do with the splitter,” Samardzija said. “The splitter was there and I kept them off balance and I was throwing my fastball for strikes, too.”

— Carrie Muskat

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