CHICAGO -- About the only person not feeling sorry for Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija these days is Jeff Samardzija. In what is turning into a déjà vu moment for his season, Samardzija once again didn’t just pitch well enough Monday night to win against the White Sox, he nearly won the game all by himself.
But he didn’t.
“What a great outing,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said afterward. “Gritty, gutsy, anything you could ask for. We wanted that game for him. We just couldn’t pull it out.”
Samardzija pitched nine innings, giving up just one unearned run, had the Cubs' first hit of the game in the sixth, scored their lone run and fielded his position as well as anyone on the diamond.
And still he didn’t get the victory, as his team lost 3-1 in 12 innings.
“I was pretty hungry for that one,” Samardzija said.
He threw a career-high 126 pitches, so the scouts that are undoubtedly watching him will be sure to take notice of his next outing. Don’t bet on it being a bad one. Samardzija has thrown seven innings or more in six of seven starts this season and has compiled a 1.62 ERA. He’s 0-3 and the Cubs are 1-6 when he starts a game. How is he not destroying buckets of Gatorade?
“You do your job,” he said. “I’m just doing my part to win a ballgame. I can’t control things on the outside. It’s not my job. Every fifth day is my job and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
When the team trades Samardzija later this season -- unless the front office has a major change of heart -- it will be a sad day for Cubs fans. Renteria’s statement that he was “everything you could ask for” Monday night applies to him as a pitcher all the time. He has turned into the complete package.
One play symbolized it all. In the fourth, with the Cubs trailing 1-0 thanks to a first-inning unearned run, Dayan Viciedo hit a high bouncer behind the mound. Sensing it would be a tough play for the shortstop, Samardzija bare-handed it over his shoulder and fired a bullet to Anthony Rizzo at first. Rizzo simply dropped the ball to extend the inning by an out, just as it was extended in the first inning.
When, Samardzija was asked, was the last time he made a play like that?
“Probably in the Sugar Bowl,” the former Notre Dame wide receiver joked. “For a touchdown, of course.”
Again, he’s the only one keeping a cool head despite the incredible poor fortune the Cubs have had when he has pitched. So far the bullpen and the offense have let him down. After Monday, we can add defense to the list.
“It’s tough,” Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro said. “Especially that kind of game he had today. We didn’t do too much to win the game. He did, though. He did everything.”
Maybe Samardzija simply realizes his days are numbered with the Cubs -- and that getting upset about missed opportunities is useless. He’s pitching his way onto a contender, and the Cubs might be the beneficiaries of it in the way of a huge trade return for his services. He has been that good -- and would be that good for any contending team’s locker room. In the meantime, he’ll just go back out there in five days and try to do it again.
“Nothing changes,” Samardzija declared. “We need to play a little bit better.”