CHICAGO -- The St. Louis Cardinals couldn’t beat the Chicago Cubs’ bucking bronco on Saturday afternoon.
Jeff Samardzija was all over the place. In, out, up, down, Samardzija had his best fastball of the season but a sinker that was out of control.
To his credit, though, the Cubs’ first-year starter managed to clear yet another of those learning hurdles despite a wild ride. He walked six, but managed to give up just two runs and the Cubs eventually prevailed in the 3-2 victory.
“I felt like it came and went for me today,” Samardzija said. “There were spurts when I couldn’t miss and was making all my pitches and times when I was battling myself. It took getting runners on to get my head on straight and make big pitches. I don’t know. I’ll go back and look at the film. I don’t think it was a situation where I need to change anything it’s just maybe remember how we felt early in the game and throughout the game and understand we can be a little more aggressive in the zone.”
The best part about not knowing where your pitches might go is that neither does the opponent. The Cardinals managed to make Samardzija work hard, but for one of the rare times of late in the matchup between National League Central rivals, the Cubs came out on top.
“Yeah my sinker was moving all over the place so I kind of just went to my four-seam fastball most of the time to kind of stay on the plate and I knew I had a good fastball numbers wise,” Samardzija said. “I knew if I was over the plate they would have respect it for the rest of the game which game my off-speed pitches a little more depth.”
The theme for Samardzija in the month of July has been that less is more. He started the month by ditching his experimental curveball and returned to dominating with a sinker, slider and fastball. On Saturday it was even more simplified.
He had a no-decision Saturday, but overall this month, Samardzija went 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five starts.
“The thing was not to let them beat him early,” manager Dale Sveum said. “he got behind, couldn't gather to get himself back in it. But he had his big velocity when he struck (Yadier) Molina out on a 99-mph fastball. When he comes into games like that with that kind of attitude, you're going to be up in the zone a little bit and you're going to use your velocity to your advantage.”
While it continues to be a season of lessons for Samardzija, the Cubs are learning things about their new starter as well. Most impressive of all might be his outings against the Cardinals this season.
In three outings against St. Louis, Samardzija is 1-0 with a 3.57 ERA.
“That’s a great lineup and you don’t want to give into them regardless,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes a walk isn’t the worst thing in the world. They put up numbers from one to eight (in the lineup) and you have to manage it. You have to make sure you make good pitches and if you do walk a guy understand you can still get a double play or still pitch around it. They still make you work and I assume for as long as I face them they always will.”