Jeff Samardzija not battling enough


CHICAGO -- The problem with Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija right now isn’t necessarily about whether a game is meaningful, it’s about not being able to battle through starts or innings when things start to go south.

Samardzija was bailed out by his offense on Wednesday in the Cubs' 9-7 win over the Miami Marlins, but not before giving up a lead for the second consecutive game. He lasted six innings, yet gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks.

“It’s tough,” he said afterward. “This game comes full circle. It goes both ways. Hit, hit, walk and a bomb. Took the air out of the sails there.”

Samardzija was describing the sixth inning, when a 3-2 Cubs lead turned into a 6-3 deficit thanks to a grand slam by .219 hitter Adeiny Hechavarria. All this was after Samardzija put the Cubs in a hole with a bad pitch to Logan Morrison in the second that left the park.

And so after climbing back from 2-0, Samardzija gave it right back again.

“It comes down to fastball command,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “If you can’t keep the fastball down, you’re going to give up slugging percentage and things like that.”

For the record, the home run to Hechavarria was off a cutter. But Samardzija didn’t disagree he needs to be better with his fastball.

“I probably need to throw it a little more, too,” he said.

But it goes further than just giving up the lead; it’s how easy it came for the opponent. This time it was the Marlins. Last time out the Philadelphia Phillies came back from down 5-0 to win.

A statistic that might be telling is Samardzija’s ERA in his losses. Naturally one would expect it to be higher than for a win, but at 6.75 it indicates his team has little chance to win the game. Travis Wood, for example, has a 4.50 ERA in his losses. Though Wood is on the losing end, he’s just not handing the game over. Samardzija needs that kind of battle, as it’s not happening for him right now.

He might get to 200 innings for the first time in his career, but Samardzija knows there has to be more than just accumulating innings to call his season a success.

“It’s not always about getting to a certain number; it’s about how you get there and how you finish,” he said. “You want to do it the right way.”

Right now, he’s not.

Fan hit by bat is OK: The Cubs took notice of a young fan that got hit in the stands by the bat of the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the sixth inning on a swing and miss.

The boy was rushed to the first-aid station by his family but returned to the game.

“Tough little kid,” Samardzija said. “It didn’t hit anything but his jaw. Was tough to see. He’ll have a good story for the rest of his life. He took a bat to his face and walked away from it.”

Sveum and Samardzija were asked if the incident had an effect on the pitcher, considering he gave up a walk and grand slam moments later. Samardzija said no, but Sveum wasn’t so sure.

“That was a tough incident right there,” he stated. “He might have lost focus, but he had a couple two-strike counts and he couldn’t put the guys away.”