9/8 Samardzija finishes strong
Jeff Samardzija may have finally convinced people he picked the right sport. He threw his first career complete game and the first by a Cubs pitcher this season in his final start, notching the win in a 4-3 victory over the Pirates.
“That was pretty impressive,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “I think he knew he had 125 pitches to get it done in, and he did it right there.”
Alfonso Soriano hit his 27th home run and David DeJesus hit a tie-breaking RBI single in the eighth to back Samardzija, who threw 120 pitches, 81 for strikes. With the win, the Cubs posted their first back-to-back wins on the road since July 23-24, which also came at PNC Park.
Samardzija is done because he’s reached his innings limit for the season. The right-hander is not coming off surgery like the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg. This is just a precautionary move in Samardzija’s first season as a starter. He admitted to reflecting on how far he’s come when he took the mound for the ninth, and thought about the pressure he put on himself this year to perform.
“I wanted to prove I could be the guy they needed me to be and I didn’t want to leave any question marks out there,” Samardzija said.
Said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle: “The guy over there, that’s a special arm.”
Samardzija struck out nine in his 17th quality start, and finished with 174 2/3 innings, more than twice as many as he totaled last season (88) when he pitched in relief. The right-hander began this year with 169 2/3 career innings in the big leagues over four seasons.
“He mixes his pitches well,” Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez said. “He’s got a good fastball, and he just competes well. He keeps the ball down, and makes good pitches when he needs them. Anytime anyone can do that, makes him tough to hit. He hit the strike zone pretty much the whole game.”
What the Cubs want next season is for Samardzija to do in six months what he did in the second half, which was post a 2.58 ERA. He won’t have to battle for one of the five spots in the rotation, and could be the Opening Day starter.
“I knew what I needed to do and I knew I had a lot of question marks around myself coming into the year,” Samardzija said. “I knew where I was going as a pitcher and the direction I was going and wanted to keep improving and get that experience late in games. You really want the staff and everyone to know they can trust you and keep giving you the ball.”
– Carrie Muskat