Jeff Samardzija’s second start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field left even more to be desired than his first.
Hopeful he’d rebound from a poor effort five weeks earlier, Samardzija lasted only two innings on Saturday night as the Cubs topped the San Francisco Giants 5-2 in Game 2 of the National League Divisional Series in front of 42,392 at Wrigley Field. The victory over their former teammate gives the Cubs a commanding 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series that resumes Monday in San Francisco. Samardzija, who made the first postseason start of his career, allowed four earned runs and six hits in his shortest outing of the season.
“It was quick,” Samardzija said. “Fastball felt good. Again, runners on base and having to battle from there too early. You can’t put your team in that much of a hole early in the game, especially against the staff like they have over there.”
“It wasn’t my night. (Dexter) Fowler had another good at-bat to start the game off and that was it.”
Though he appreciated the postseason atmosphere at Wrigley Field, Samardzija thought he avoided getting too caught up in it on Saturday.
But Samardzija never had the chance to settle in as he lasted only 47 pitches. That’s the same amount of pitches he threw in the first inning of his return to Wrigley on Sept. 1, his first outing at the place he called home for 6 1/2 seasons since the Cubs traded him to the Oakland A’s in July 2014. Whereas he earned a no decision the first time, Samardzija was saddled with the loss on Saturday as the Giants struggling offense couldn’t dig out of the 4-0 hole he created.
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Samardzija exited in the top of the third when manager Bruce Bochy used Gregor Blanco to pinch-hit for the right-hander, who is in the first season of a five-year, $90-million deal with the Giants.
“You can’t go out and spot a team four in the playoffs and expect to go another (inning),” Samardzija said.
Things appeared to be in Samardzija’s favor for an instant as his first two pitches of the game went for strikes against leadoff man Dexter Fowler. But Samardzija couldn’t put Fowler away as he fouled off several pitches before ripping the ninth of the at-bat -- a 96-mph fastball -- off the right-field fence for a double. Though Samardzija retired Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist dumped a 95-mph fastball into right for an RBI single and a 1-0 Cubs lead.
It didn’t get any easier as Samardzija allowed the first four runners of the second inning to reach base. The stretch included a bases-loaded single by counterpart Kyle Hendricks to give the Cubs an early three-run cushion. Bryant’s one-out single to right made it a 4-0 game in the second inning.
“It's fair to say that he was a little bit off tonight,” Bochy said. “Getting the ball where he wanted to, mixing a couple soft serve hits, too, that hurt first inning. I agree with you. I thought we had him struck out. I haven't seen the pitch. But he made some mistakes, so that's fair to say, and just couldn't limit the damage.
“The ball Hendricks hit, he bloops that in, that scores two. Now it's an uphill climb for us.”
Samardzija did find one silver lining -- he’s prepared to pitch out of the bullpen immediately if needed. The series resumes with Game 3 on Monday night in San Francisco and Game 4, if necessary, on Tuesday.
“Oh I’m ready,” Samardzija said. “Yeah. I didn’t throw enough pitches to cost me so I’ll be ready to go whenever they need me.”