The “feels like” temperature on Weather.com said it was 31 degrees at first pitch on Wednesday and Jeff Samardzija probably won’t argue that point.
The White Sox starting pitcher said the blustery conditions, including 17-mph winds, at U.S. Cellular Field made it difficult to get comfortable on the mound. But Samardzija made the most of “subpar stuff” and led his team to a 6-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians, the first of his White Sox career. Samardzija pitched around six hits and two walks in six scoreless innings to earn a win he probably has dreamed about more times than he can count.
“It feels great,” Samardzija said. “It's all about proving yourself to these guys. You get new teammates and you want to come out here and make sure you prove your worth to them and they want to be go out there and play with you and be out there on tough days like that. They went out there and played great for me and (Geovany Soto) called a great game and got me through it.”
Since he allowed nine earned runs in his first eight innings with the White Sox, Samardzija has settled in nicely. He’s now allowed one earned run in his last 19 innings and hasn’t surrendered anything over the past 10 frames.
But the last six weren’t that easy and Samardzija threw 113 pitches on Wednesday to prove it. The right-hander stranded two runners in the second and fourth innings and left the bases loaded in the third.
“He has some tools to him,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “So with the stuff that he has he’s able to find something that’s working that he can rely on. Doesn’t have to go to it the whole time. In big spots he would go to it.”
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Outfielder Adam Eaton said he sees the football player in Samardzija, especially before the games he starts. He’s not a player that you interact with much prior to taking the mound and that attitude carries over onto the field. Even though Samardzija’s pitch count stood at 93 after four innings, Eaton had a feeling he’d complete a few more. Samardzija needed only 10 pitches in each of his last two innings as he retired six of the last seven batters he faced.
“You can tell he’s focused on what he needs to do and how he needs to do it,” Eaton said. “You can feel that energy form him that he will give you 120 pitches of whatever the best he has that day.”
Samardzija insists there wasn’t much of his best to be given. He started to warm up in the middle innings and that helped him to become more efficient when he needed it most.
“It was cold, man,” Samardzija said. “Trying to get that arm warmed up. I felt like around the 60th, 70th pitch we started getting going where we wanted. It was just a battle out there. It was tough conditions and like I said, when you get that early lead and you have the faith in your defense just to throw it over the plate and they made some great plays for me, it makes the day a lot of easier.”
So does getting the first victory out of the way.