Instant Replay: Samardzija lasts two, Giants down 2-0 in NLDS

Instant Replay: Samardzija lasts two, Giants down 2-0 in NLDS


CHICAGO — Jeff Samardzija was drafted by the Cubs a decade ago, so he spent his early years in professional baseball dreaming of starting a playoff game at Wrigley Field. On the eve of that opportunity, Samardzija said he was not nervous about returning as a visitor. 

“I’m excited to have that opportunity,” Samardzija said. “It never matters where it’s at.”

Only Samardzija knows if the location Saturday night, historic Wrigley Field, with a lathered-up crowd waiting to watch him fail, played into the result. Only he knows if he was truly nervous, or overly amped. The only thing clear from the outside was that the choice of Bochy backfired horribly for the Giants, who picked him and slotted Matt Moore in for Game 4. 

Now, they have work to do just to guarantee a start for Moore. 

Samardzija recorded just six outs as the Giants went down 5-2 in Game 2 of the National League Division Series. They face a monumental task. They must go home and twice beat the best team in baseball to keep their season alive and force a return trip to Chicago.

Samardzija, who pitched seven seasons for the Cubs, had a brutal return to Chicago on Sept. 1, but he was Bochy’s hottest starter the rest of the month, leading to the postseason assignment. Dexter Fowler led off that regular season game with a 13-pitch plate appearance, and he doubled on the ninth pitch of the bottom of the first Saturday. Samardzija appeared to settle in, getting a harmless groundout from likely MVP Kris Bryant and throwing a wicked splitter to whiff Anthony Rizzo. Ben Zobrist finally got Fowler across with a single to shallow right. 

The second inning spun on Samardzija in a hurry. Jason Heyward led off with a hard double and Javier Baez, who drew just 15 walks in the regular season, got a free pass. Willson Contreras singled, loading the bases for right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who had two RBI all season. He hit a flare to center and Denard Span’s rush came up short. Heyward walked home and Baez, who made a tremendous read, was hot on his heels. The Cubs went up 4-0 when the ball popped out of Hunter Pence’s glove on a diving attempt in right.

Hendricks, the NL ERA leader, didn’t allow more than four runs in a start all season, but the Giants quickly cut the deficit in half. Joe Panik led off the third with a double and Gregor Blanco — hitting for Samardzija — followed up with a second one. The hit was the first since August 20 for Blanco, who missed most of September with a shoulder impingement. He scored on Brandon Belt’s sacrifice fly. 

Samardzija was charged with four earned on six hits in two innings. The Cubs also reached into their bullpen early, but not because Hendricks was struggling. Angel Pagan hit a liner that glanced off Hendricks’ forearm and knocked him out with two down in the fourth. Hendricks was diagnosed with a right forearm contusion.

George Kontos and Travis Wood took over, and the Cubs’ lefty pushed the advantage back to three with a long solo shot to left in the bottom of the fourth. Wood joined Rosy Ryan of the 1924 Giants as the only relief pitchers to homer in a postseason game. 

Wood has nine career homers in the regular season, but the Giants countered with their own slugging pitcher in the fifth. Madison Bumgarner had peppered Waveland Avenue with homers during batting practice, and he pinch-hit for Kontos. Bumgarner smacked a grounder to third that went for a two-base error but he was stranded. 

The Cubs made one of the biggest splashes of the deadline with the acquisition of rocket-armed closer Aroldis Chapman, but under-the-radar moves built a bullpen armed with depth. It showed after Hendricks departed. Wood, Carl Edwards and Mike Montgomery carried the lead into the eighth, when Hector Rondon entered after a one-out single from Brandon Belt. Rondon blew a 96 mph fastball past Buster Posey and got Pence to ground out to second. 

The three-run lead was carried all the way to Chapman, who closed the Giants out for the second straight night. 

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.