Samardzija had nursed the Cubs’ four-run first-inning outburst through eight innings, allowing only five hits, including a solo homer by Carlos Beltran in the sixth for the lone St. Louis run.
“It’s the best-hitting team in baseball and he shut them down to a solo home run. He was as good as he has been all year, and when you can do that against that offense, you’ve had one heck of a game,” Sveum said.
“He wanted to finish and I gave him the chance, it didn’t work out. Those guys are good hitters. (Yadier) Molina is taking hitting to another level.”
Samardzija, who was trying to become the first Cubs starter to pitch nine innings against the Cardinals since Carlos Zambrano in 2005, got the first out in the ninth, but then surrendered back-to-back singles to Matt Holliday and Allen Craig.
“Holliday got a broken-bat (hit) because we were playing deep, and that was unfortunate,” Samardzija said. “I thought I battled Craig good but I left a sinker over the plate and he punched it in the hole. I felt great. This team is going to take great at-bats until the dire end so you’ve got to be ready for it.
“You just have to respect the way they play the game. You watch film for five days trying to find some weaknesses and you can look as hard as you want but you are not going to find it. You just know your margin for error against this team is real small, and you’ve just got to deal with it.”
Samardzija allowed only one fly ball out to the outfield, the final out in the eighth inning.
After the two hits in the ninth, Sveum went to his bullpen to bring in Kevin Gregg, who gave up the second Cardinals’ run when Molina came through with a single, his third hit of the game.
Just when the Cubs had to be wondering if another ninth-inning disaster was imminent, they finally caught a break. With Shane Robinson running for Molina, David Freese hit a would-be double-play ball.
Robinson tried to break up the play at second, but was called for interference when he went out of the baseline, resulting in the game-ending double play.
“We finally got a call in this place, I know that,” Sveum said. “I’ve had too many darn walkoffs in this place, I know that. Whatever it was, it was a good call for us. I couldn’t see what happened from the dugout.”