Jeff Samardzija did nothing to diminish his trade value on Thursday afternoon nor did he hurt the White Sox slim postseason chances.
The White Sox right-hander looked very much like an ace as he bested one of the teams believed to be most interested in his services in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays in front of 23,298 at U.S. Cellular Field. Pitching in front of at least a dozen scouts, Samardzija hurled a four-hit shutout and Melky Cabrera homered as the White Sox won for the seventh time in nine games.
“I’d hope they know what I am by now anyway,” Samardzija said. “They have been scouting me for what, 2 1/2 years now. I think they have the book on me. It’s just going out and keep trying, especially for this team right now, where we’re at. We need to keep playing well and hopefully let them know we’re here and we need a whole year.”
Samardzija’s 2015 season has definitely improved with age.
The White Sox hold out hope theirs can, too.
Samardzija -- pitching at home for his childhood team --- said he pressed early on but has found a groove over the past six starts. Just likeSaturday against Baltimore, Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in the finale against Toronto.
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He gave up a pair of hits that inning but induced a double play off Josh Donaldson’s bat to end the sixth.
Then his “amazing defense” kicked in led by Gordon Beckham and Carlos Sanchez. Samardzija applauded a diving effort by Beckham, who was at short in place of injured Alexei Ramirez, to end the eighth and Sanchez had a gem in the second. Those two also combined on a critical double play in the ninth as Donaldson bounced into a 4-6-3 when Beckham made a nice turn despite a hardslide by Devon Travis. Samardzija got Jose Bautista to chase a 3-2 slider to end the game.
Samardzija -- who walked one and struck out five -- has a 2.40 ERA in 45 innings over his last six starts.
While his improved pitching has helped boost the White Sox, they’re also aware it’s increasing his trade value. The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles are two teams said to have some of the strongest interest in Samardzija andToronto GM Alex Anthropolus attended Thursday’s game.
“He was sharp, he was aggressive in the zone, his split was great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “His competiveness is always there. I think that's probably the biggest thing that sticks when you just watch him pitch, emotionally and everything else. He kept it all together.
“You know he's a good pitcher. Everybody knows that. For us to lose a frontline a pitcher, it would be tough, absolutely.”
It has mostly been an uphill battle for the White Sox offense this season and Thursday was no different until they scored twice in the sixth inning.
They stranded a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning asR.A. Dickey retired Cabrera and Adam LaRoche. An inning later, the White Sox had runners on the corners and only one out. But Dickey retired Sanchez on a pop out to shallow center and struck out Beckham.
But Adam Eaton started the sixth inning with a triple to right-center field and he scored on a passed ball to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead. Cabrera then launched his fourth home run to right to make it a two-run game.
Given their seven recent victories have come against St. Louis, Baltimore and Toronto, the White Sox, who are 39-44, hope they can retain Samardzija and other key players long enough to try and erase a 32-42 start.
“We’re aware of what’s going on but if we play better baseball like we should we should have the team here,” Eaton said. “I truly believe we have the talent to win in this clubhouse. I said at beginning of spring training and I still believe it. We’re not even at the All-Star break yet.
“There’s no reason we cant play good enough baseball to get back into this thing.”