Jeff Samardzija finally got the offense he needed to win a ballgame. Unfortunately for him, another bullpen implosion saw this victory slip away.
The Cubs have scored 19 runs in Samardzija's first seven starts of 2013. Alfonso Soriano drove in four runs Saturday -- with two home runs in his first two at-bats -- giving the Cubs a two-run lead going into the late innings.
But once again, the Cubs Opening Day starter was denied a victory. And he defended Carlos Marmol, whose meltdown triggered the winning rally for the Reds.
"Carlos has done some great things for us," Samardzija said. “He was run out there almost every day when I first got here. You don’t forget that and the great guy that he is, how much he cares. You hope he keeps working, because when he is in the zone, he is unhittable.”
The Cubs starter was able to get through six innings, allowing just two runs. Shin-Soo Choo led off the game with his fifth home run of the season. In the third inning, Zack Cozart drove in the second run after a throwing error by Samardzija put Choo in scoring position.
Samardzija was battling through a cut just under his nail on his right index finger. The 28-year-old pitcher sustained the injury in his fifth outing at Cincinnati on April 24. The gash was significant enough that Samardzija had to skip his side session between starts. A combination of remedies, including pickle brine, was used to toughen the skin around the cut.
"I was able to get back to my fastball," he said. “I really attacked the zone and getting them to swing at it. The fastball makes all your other pitches better and keeps them off-balance.”
Marmol loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter in the eighth inning before manager Dale Sveum removed him for rookie Hector Rondon. The Reds scored four runs in the eighth inning to ruin another solid outing by a starter.
”One way or another, he [Marmol] has to get fixed," said a visibly upset Sveum. “He has still been getting out of innings before today but 16 walks and three hit batters in 11 innings. I don’t know if he even threw a strike today.”
Marmol was working in his 453rd game as a reliever, setting a franchise record for relief appearances.
As for the hard-luck Samardzija, he has an 0-1 record against the Reds this season with a 1.50 ERA.