DETROIT -- Welcome back, Jeff Samardzija.
Locked in the worst stretch of his career, the White Sox starter was a Victor Martinez bloop single away from perfection on Monday afternoon. Samardzija threw a one-hit shutout and Carlos Sanchez provided just enough offense as the White Sox downed the Detroit Tigers 2-0 at Comerica Park in Game 1 of a split doubleheader. Samardzija, who earned losses in eight of his previous nine starts, credited an adjustment he made after watching video of previous games as he needed only 88 pitches as he dominated a Miguel Cabrera-less Tigers offense.
“Me and (video coordinator Bryan Johnson) got together on the film between starts and think we found something that was essentially tipping my pitches, half the way,” Samardzija said. “When you find that, it gives you a little extra confidence.”
The final portion of the 2015 season has gone so poorly for Samardzija that the only time he wasn’t booed in his last home start on Tuesday was when Robin Ventura pulled him in the fourth inning.
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Since Aug. 2, Samardzija had a 9.24 earned-run average with 71 hits, 22 walks and 12 home runs allowed in 49 2/3 innings. But the same guy who opponents had a .336/.403/.621 slash line against in the previous nine games cruised in the opener of a four-game series against Detroit.
“He just seemed to be on today all the way through,” Ventura said. “Low pitch count. But just command and everything. He didn’t seem to fall behind. I think that was the biggest thing. He just didn’t give in.
“Obviously, the best game he’s pitched here this year.”
Not only was Samardzija efficient -- he never went to a three-ball count and only had nine at-bats in which he threw two balls -- he yielded few hard-hit balls. While Martinez erased Samardzija’s bid for perfection with an opposite-field bloop single in the fifth inning, no other Tigers reached base and they had a total of three-hard hit balls.
Samardzija struck out six and didn’t issue a walk.
“It was pretty obvious on a few things I was doing, especially for my fastball and when it was coming,” Samardzija said. “For me, it’s such a big pitch. I’m always throwing my fastball that if they know it’s coming it really takes an edge off what I’m doing out there. Hopefully we can continue to get better and keep watching film and make sure there’s no other things in there and if there is we can clean them up.”
The right-hander said he isn’t usually big on watching footage of his performances. But given the way teams had teed off on his fastball of late (.360 since Aug. 2, per brooksbaseball.net), Samardzija worked closely with Johnson between starts.
“I try to be an in-game guy,” Samardzija said. “But there are some times where you need to get out there and maybe watch an old game when you did really well or watch the past game and what happened. For me that was the case. I needed to go back to my last couple of starts and see why good pitches were getting tattooed. It’s not a fun feeling so you definitely want to fix it as fast as possible.”
Sanchez helped to make the effort stand up with a 3-for-3 showing. He and Adam Eaton helped give Samardzija take the lead in the third inning when Sanchez doubled with two outs and scored ahead of Steven Moya’s throw home on Eaton’s RBI single.
Sanchez blasted a solo homer to leftcenter in the sixth inning off Kyle Ryan, who allowed two earned runs and six hits in seven innings.
“(Samardzija) was outstanding,” Sanchez said through an interpreter. “He deserved all of the credit for this win. We are there to help all of our pitchers and try to get some wins. It was very, very good today for him.”