Far from the 8 2/3-inning gem he pitched in his season debut, Samardzija had to hang on just to finish the five innings he needed to qualify for a victory after being staked to a nine-run lead on a rainy afternoon.
It figured to be a tough task especially when considering that Samardzija was just five days removed from a 110-pitch outing against the Washington Nationals. Never has Samardzija had to come back from that many pitches in an outing, and the fifth inning started to get dicey.
He made it through, though, ultimately needing 103 pitches in his return to the mound. The Cardinals scored five runs to make it interesting but the bullpen shut things down the rest of the way with four scoreless innings.
“You know he was going to have to be really good and for the first time really pitching after 8 2/3 [innings]” manager Dale Sveum said. “How would the body would respond and the arm and all that, to velocity and life and all that stuff? But he battled and got through it and got the ‘W.’ Sometimes you relax to with that kind of lead. Somebody will hit it at somebody sooner or later and all of a sudden you might give up five runs.”
And with that comment, Sveum sounded like he was done making excuses for Samardzija. He doesn’t want to baby his pitcher any longer and go through the first-time-this, first-time-that syndrome.
“It’s uncharted waters, but I think we have to be careful and I have to be careful using those kind of things as excuses too,” Sveum said. “Just because it’s the first time he’s done this and that. I have to be careful using those excuses. He’s pitched enough in the big leagues to understand all this.”
To his credit, Samardzija made no excuses of his own. He barely even acknowledged that he was coming off a long outing last weekend.
“I don’t think it had a whole lot to do with it to tell you the truth,” he said. “Obviously the conditions weren’t great out there [Friday]. I just thought I was feeling pretty good, in the zone and I think I just let it get to me a little bit and they throw a couple of hits up and it was like, ‘All right lock back in and get to where you need to be.’ They’re a good-hitting team, man.”
On this day, though, the Cubs were a better hitting team and that made all the difference.
“It’s nice as a pitcher when your offense gives you nine and your bullpen gives you four,” Samardzija said. “I was just in the right place at the right time today for sure.”