8/24 Cubs 3, Padres 2
The best thing about the eighth inning Saturday night wasn’t that Jeff Samardzija escaped a bases-loaded, none out mess, giving up only one run, but that manager Dale Sveum left the right-hander alone to figure it out. Samardzija struck out seven over eight innings and Darwin Barney smacked a solo home run and a RBI double to lead the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the Padres at PETCO Park and even the series.
Samardzija scattered seven hits and walked two. He now has totaled 176 innings this year, passing his personal high of 174 1/3 innings set last season, his first as a starter. The right-hander also is closing in on his single-season strikeout high of 180, set last season. He has fanned 175 this year.
His biggest K was his last one. Trailing 3-1, Padres pinch-hitter Mark Kotsay walked to open the eighth and Will Venable singled. Alexi Amarista then delivered what Sveum called “the most perfect bunt” toward third, with the ball just staying fair as catcher Dioner Navarro, third baseman DOnnie Murphy and Samardzija watched it roll. With the bases loaded, Yonder Alonso hit a sacrifice fly. One out later, the runners moved up on a passed ball. Chase Headley was then intentionally walked, but Samardzija struck out Forsythe to end the inning.
“That’s why you leave a guy like that in the game,” Sveum said of Samardzija. “Getting strike one for him is huge. When he gets that, those are usually all his good games.”
Neither Sveum nor pitching coach Chris Bosio went to the mound in the eighth to calm Samardzija down. They’ve had to do so a few times this season when he gets in what Sveum calls “gorilla” mode. Was Samardzija surprised Sveum left him in there?
“I wasn’t,” Samardzija said. “Me and Dale might have had a meeting down there in the dugout if he had taken me out. That’s what Dale is all about. Dale’s all about putting confidence in his players. He lets our hitters swing in bunt situations, he lets our pitchers hit.
“There are a lot of under the radar things that he does that puts confidence in the players and he did it for me there, too,” Samardzija said. “He didn’t come out and have a mound visit or anything. As a player, that says a lot. You’re out there understanding this is your inning, your game. You don’t want to waste that or give it back, and you want to say, ‘Hey, I appreciate that and I’m going to do good work for you.'”
Samardzija is one win shy of his career high of nine set last season, when he was shut down early after reaching his innings limit.
The Cubs have been trying to find a No. 4 hitter now that Alfonso Soriano is gone. What about Barney?
“No chance,” he said. “After I hit the homer, I told [Donnie Murphy],’ I ‘Murphied’ that ball. We’ll let him continue to do that, and I’ll take my singles.”
– Carrie Muskat