Cubs' Samardzija finds his mojo

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
11:40
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- This has not been the type of season Jeff Samardzija had initially mapped out for himself in his first chance to be the year-long go-to pitcher for the Chicago Cubs after getting shut down with two weeks to go in the 2012 campaign.

[+] EnlargeJeff Samardzija
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastJeff Samardzija threw a complete game on Monday, his second of the season.
But Monday night may have been the turning point for him, as he threw his second complete game of the season and third of his career in a 11-1 blowout of the Washington Nationals.

Samardzija gave credit to catcher Dioner Navarro for making the game plan work to perfection.

“Navarro is unbelievable,” said Samardzija, who won his seventh game of the year. “What he does behind the plate, his presence is outstanding. He has a plan as to what he wants to do and that takes a load off of me and my mind. We were on the same page all day. He would take a second to let me relax before executing the next pitch.”


The Navarro-Samardzija connection’s end result was a complete-game six-hitter.

“What I try to do every time I pitch is to make the game as easy as possible for the guy,” Navarro said. “My goal is to get strike one on the hitter. That is what I preach and Jeff did that tonight.”

Bases on balls had been haunting Samardzija, who had walked 16 batters in his previous five starts.

“What had been frustrating me is falling behind in counts early,” Samardzija said. “But today I had a few one-pitch outs, which kept my pitch count down and allowed me to go deeper in the game.”

On yet another day where the Cubs lost a teammate to a trade, a certain toughness remains for the surviving players from spring training.

“I am getting used to it by now,” Samardzija said. “We have some pretty thick skin in that clubhouse. It is another tough loss when you lose (a great) character like David DeJesus. They got a great guy out of that deal. It is unfortunate, but a lot of guys will get some important at-bats the last month and a half.”

Samardzija has two years of salary arbitration left before he can become a free agent. The Cubs have floated the idea of a five-year contract with the third and fourth seasons having vesting contingencies. With a strong finish to the 2013 season a long-term commitment could get worked out in the offseason.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Jason Hammel
WINS ERA SO IP
8 2.98 104 108
OTHER LEADERS
BAA. Rizzo .283
HRA. Rizzo 25
RBIA. Rizzo 55
RA. Rizzo 67
OPSA. Rizzo .924
ERAJ. Samardzija 2.83
SOJ. Hammel 104