6/18 Cubs 4, Cardinals 2
Jeff Samardzija had studied film of the Cardinals for days, and couldn’t find any weaknesses, so he focused on what he could do best, and it worked. Samardzija picked up his first win since May 27 as the Cubs beat the Cardinals, 4-2, on Tuesday night to even the series.
“It’s a rivalry game, and with that aside, you have a respect for [the Cardinals] and how they play the game and how they set their lineup up, one through nine,” Samardzija said. “You know you’ve got to come at it. I’m watching film five days before, and trying to find some weaknesses, and you can look as hard as you want and you’re not going to find it. You just know your margin of error against this team is real small and you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Besides having to face the best offense in the NL and the team with the best record in the Majors, he also was up against 10-game winner Adam Wainwright, who entered with a 2.18 ERA. But Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ransom hit back-to-back home runs in the first off the right-hander to back Samardzija.
Samardzija was efficient and effective, giving up seven hits, including a solo home run to Carlos Beltran in the sixth, and striking out six over 8 1/3 innings. He exited after serving up two singles in the ninth. Kevin Gregg took over, and gave up a RBI single to unstoppable Yadier Molina. David Freese then hit a grounder to second baseman Darwin Barney, who flipped to shortstop Starlin Castro for the force at second. Pinch-runner Shane Robinson, who was on first, slid hard into Castro and well off the bag, and second base umpire Fieldin Culbreth called interference on the play. The game was over.
“[Robinson] wasn’t even close to the base and he had his cleats up,” Castro said. “I understand that you can try to break up the double play in that kind of situation but not like that. … I couldn’t throw the ball because he tried to kill me.”
Samardzija kept the Cubs infielders busy. There was only one flyout in the game, and that was when Matt Carpenter ended the eighth with a fly ball to right fielder Nate Schierholtz. The Cubs right-hander credited a tweak in his mechanics, which helped his fastball be more effective.
“I really wanted to kick this June bugaboo,” he said. “I’ve been working real hard and I just like where I’m at right now.”
In his career, he’s 2-8 with a 7.14 ERA in June, which includes an 0-4 record and 10.41 ERA in five starts last year in the month.
“The movement he had on his ball tonight and keeping hitters off balance and still throwing 96, 97 [mph] in the ninth inning, that’s huge, especially with how hot it is,” Sweeney said. “He kept the ball down and had his sinker going. Whenever you keep the ball down, that’s a plus for the defense.”
No Rizzo? No problem. The Cubs’ lineup was without Anthony Rizzo, who was given his first game off this season. Sveum didn’t say how long the first baseman would sit, just that he needed a “breather” after batting .157 this month. Rizzo is 3-for-6 against Jake Westbrook, who starts Wednesday.
— Carrie Muskat