4/7 Braves 5, Cubs 1
Through the first two innings Sunday, Jeff Samardzija appeared to be on pace to strike out 27 batters. The problem is, he didn’t finish the game the way he wanted. Samardzija did strike out a career-high 13 batters but the Cubs lost. Ramiro Pena, one of two starters who didn’t whiff, hit a tie-breaking two-run single in the sixth and Dan Uggla added a solo home run in the eighth to lift the Braves to a 5-1 victory and complete a sweep.
Samardzija looked as if he was going to challenge the team strikeout records. He is the first Cubs pitcher to strike out as many as 13 batters in less than six innings.
“It’s a double-edged sword when you strike guys out like that,” Samardzija said. “Your pitch count gets up, you’re showing them a lot of pitches. It’s not a bad thing. I felt good, the pitches all felt good and a couple bad decisions there came back to haunt me.”
The Cubs gave him a 1-0 lead in the first when David DeJesus doubled to lead off and scored one out later on Anthony Rizzo’s groundout. But the Braves tied the game in the fifth when a run scored on a wild pitch.
“It was an impressive outing and he obviously had his velocity and his split,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija. “It was one pitch that got away [on the wild pitch] that changed the whole game around.”
Justin Upton was called out on strikes to begin the sixth for No. 13. With two on and two outs, Chris Johnson tried to dodge an inside pitch, which he said hit him. Samardzija argued that Johnson had swung, but home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez agreed with Johnson that he was hit, and the bases were loaded.
“We were trying to go up and in after I threw a slider and I guess it grazed him,” Samardzija said.
Pena then delivered his go-ahead single.
Samardzija was lifted after 105 pitches, and Hudson (1-0) helped himself with a RBI single off Michael Bowden. His previous strikeout high was 11, which he had done twice before, including July 2 at Turner Field. That start sparked a strong finish to the 2012 season as he posted a 2.58 ERA in his final 13 games. Samardzija also fanned 11 on Aug. 13 against the Astros. Strikeouts are fun, but they don’t always help you win games.
“You strike out a lot of guys, the pitch count gets up, and as a starter, your job is to pitch deep in the game and keep it close and I failed to do that,” Samardzija said. “Strikeouts or no strikeouts, it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the outcome, and the outcome wasn’t in our favor so I didn’t do my job.”
— Carrie Muskat