9/29 Cardinals 4, Cubs 0
Jeff Samardzija closed the season on Sunday, taking the loss in the Cubs’ 4-0 decision to the playoff-bound Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 44,808 at Busch Stadium. Whether it was Dale Sveum’s last game as manager won’t be known until Monday, when he meets with Theo Epstein.
“We’ll find out in whatever it is, 12 hours, 15, whatever it is,” Sveum said. “It’s upon us.”
There were a lot of hugs between the players and coaches in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. With the loss, the Cubs finished last in the National League Central at 66-96, a slight improvement over the 61-101 record in 2012. Epstein has repeatedly said he’s not judging Sveum on the team’s won-loss record.
“There were some positives,” Sveum said of the season, citing Anthony Rizzo’s stats, the emergence of reliever Hector Rondon, the development of catcher Welington Castillo. “It was a tough year all the way around.”
In 2012, Samardzija’s first year as a starter, he was shut down in early September when he’d reached his innings limit. This year, the kid gloves were off. Samardzija struck out four over six innings to finish with 213 2/3 innings, 214 strikeouts, and 19 quality starts out of 33 outings. But the Cubs couldn’t get him a win, and ended the season losing 14 of their last 18 games. He will finish among the top 10 pitchers in the National League in innings and strikeouts.
“I’m satisfied,” Samardzija said of his season. “I had a strong year, felt good, pitched every start, threw a lot of innings, lot of strikeouts. I need to limit the damage in crooked number innings, and once we do that, and cut those down to one instead of three, and cut the walks down, too, I think you’re looking at a different year. I’m still hungry and eager to improve for sure.”
With the win, the Cardinals will host the winner of the Reds vs. Pirates Wild Card Game, and the Braves will play host to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series. The Cubs’ players headed home.
“It’s not about playing six months, it’s about playing that seventh month,” Samardzija said. “Otherwise you’re just out here buying time. I want to win and pitch in October, and that’s it.”
Maybe next year?
“I think in three years — two or three — I think we’ll be competing,” Starlin Castro said. “I feel me and this guy right there [Rizzo], we work together and we’ll be a good team for sure.”
– Carrie Muskat