The White Sox kept Jeff Samardzija at the non-waiver trade deadline to compete for a playoff spot, but instead, he’s been one of the reasons why they’ve remained on the periphery of the American League wild card race.
The 30-year-old right-hander and free agent to be surrendered five runs in 5 2/3 innings as the White Sox lost to the Seattle Mariners, 7-6, in front of 26,011 Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Samardzija’s ERA sits at 4.85, surpassing John Danks (4.82) for the highest mark on the White Sox. And only seven qualified starters have a higher ERA (Kyle Lohse, Jeremy Guthrie, C.C. Sabathia, Matt Garza, Drew Hutchison, Anibal Sanchez and Alfredo Simon) in 2015.
The White Sox were 49-51 when the trade deadline passed the afternoon of July 31, but are 11-17 since. They’ve lost all six of Samardzija’s starts over the course of which he has an 8.82 ERA.
“I feel good,” Samardzija said. “Everything's as is. It feels great, throw all the same. Sometimes there's a couple pitches, you always have a couple games where you don't make 100 percent great pitches. Sometimes they turn to pop outs or roll overs. Just for me recently, they've been coming up to bite me in the butt. So you've got to go out there and have a perfect game and turn the tides on your own.”
[MORE: White Sox pleased with Carlos Rodon workload heading into September]
Seattle quickly jumped on Samardzija in the first inning Saturday night, with Kyle Seager belting a two-run homer and Seth Smith delivering an RBI on a sacrifice fly to put Samardzija and the White Sox in an early 3-0 hole. The first inning has been a massive problem for Samardzija all year — he’s allowed 23 runs in 27 first innings, good for a 7.67 ERA.
“I don’t know, I don’t really have an answer for that,” Samardzija said. “You can’t really control when you give the runs up. It’s just the same routine I’ve done for years. It’s just a pitch here and a pitch there that we need to improve on and pay attention to and then we go from there.”
Samardzija gave up another run in the third when Smith doubled in Robinson Cano, though he could’ve allowed more in the frame if not for Tyler Flowers’ leaping catch and tag of Seager at home plate on Cano’s double off the wall the previous at-bat. The Mariners added another run in the fourth when Ketel Marte flew out to left to score Brad Miller.
Over his 5 2/3 innings, Samardzija allowed 10 fly balls and line drives and only four ground balls. That’s been another problem — his home run/fly ball rate is basically the same as last year (10.7 percent in 2015, 10.6 percent in 2014), but he’s allowing about 10 percent more fly balls and line drives (59.6 percent of balls in play entering Saturday) and 10 percent fewer ground balls (40.4 percent of balls in play).
The result has been Samardzija allowing 23 home runs this year, which is well on pace to surpass his previous career high of 25 in 2013.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]
“Especially in this park, you’ve got to be able to get them to hit it on the ground,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Tonight, especially, I think they got the ball in the air and hard. You’ve got to stay away from that.”
It’s been a confounding season for Samardzija, who has the same velocity he’s always had and has gone through dominant stretches — he had a 2.27 ERA in July and shut out a powerful Blue Jays lineup that month. He has one more month to turn things around and steer the conversation away from if he’d be smart to accept a one-year qualifying offer from the White Sox back to how many years and how many millions of dollars a team will shell out for his services this winter.
“As far as being prepared and competitiveness, all that stuff is as good as it’s going to get,” Ventura said. “You see him prepare not only for tonight’s game but in between starts and all that. He’s a gamer. And he’s willing to go. He’s probably scratching his head too as to how it’s ended up like this.”