DETROIT — Before the missed call/no challenge mess in the ninth, Jeff Samardzija put together his best outing as a member of the White Sox.
The unofficial centerpiece of the team’s massive offseason overhaul matched Detroit Tigers ace David Price for eight innings on Friday afternoon before the White Sox lost 2-1 on a Jose Iglesias walkoff single at Comerica Park.
Though he constantly had to fight out of jams, Samardzija gave the White Sox a reminder why they sent a four-player package to the Oakland A’s to acquire him in December. Samardzija, who entered with a 6.23 ERA, limited baseball’s fifth highest scoring offense to a run in eight innings and struck out seven. Price held the White Sox to a run and four hits in eight innings, striking out nine.
“You get both of those pitchers hooking up like that, they are fantastic, both of them,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Jeff did a great job navigating through a lineup. And I think both sides were limited with what they could do because both sides were so good.”
Samardzija found himself in stressful situations most of the day, but managed to avoid trouble.
Detroit had a runner reach third base in the first, third, fifth and seventh innings, not counting Yoenis Cespedes’ fourth-inning homer.
But Samardzija found a way to wiggle out of each situation.
“If most proud of anything it was pitches with runners in scoring position,” Samardzija said. “They like to run and we cut that out, which I was happy about. That was a key going in the game. We were battling there. To get a couple ground balls here and there was huge.”
He stranded men at second and third in the first inning after Miguel Cabrera’s double off the top of the left-field wall as J.D. Martinez popped out and Cespedes grounded out to short. In the third, Gordon Beckham made two dazzling plays, one a throw to the plate and the other starting a double play with a great stab on a Cabrera shot toward the hole. Samardzija struck out J.D. Martinez to end the fifth inning and pitched around a leadoff double in the seventh as Beckham made a diving grab with a man on second. Samardzija then got two groundouts to end the rally.
“(Beckham) saved us a couple of times and made a nice play coming in,” Ventura said. “He can pick it over there.”
Though he only had three 1-2-3 innings, Samardzija got stronger as the game went on. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and eighth innings and finished with seven strikeouts. Samardzija allowed the one run and eight hits but walked none in a 106-pitch effort.
Price was just as good, if not better. Avisail Garcia homered in the fourth off the left-hander, who didn’t allow any of the other five base runners to reach scoring position.
“I always feel better the last 50 or 60 pitches of a game,” Samardzija said. “It’s a great team and I know from pitch 1 I had to have a great day to do what we wanted to do.
“I learned over the past few years when you’re facing the other team’s ace you have to be ready to go. You can’t make any mistakes and that homer to Cespedes was the difference in the game. If I could have one pitch back it would be that one.”