CHICAGO – Before Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria insisted his team hadn’t played that poorly behind starter Jeff Samardzija despite his 0-3 record and 1.45 ERA coming into the day.
Renteria can’t make that claim anymore after the Cubs lost 4-3 and made a season-high three errors. Catcher Welington Castillo added a costly passed ball as Samardzija dropped to 0-4 while his ERA rose to just 1.62.
“It’s too bad,” infielder Darwin Barney said afterward. “He comes out every fifth day and pitches and competes. We want nothing more than to give him some run support.”
Barney helped do that with a two-run home run in the second inning to cut a 4-0 Brewers lead in half. The Cubs added a run in the third -- nearly doubling their usual run support for Samardzija -- but this time it wasn’t the bullpen that hurt him, it was their defense. Two of Samardzija's four runs were unearned.
“I’m not happy about it,” Samardzija said of being winless. “It’s not like it goes unnoticed. I want to win. Being a starting pitcher you have a big say in how a game turns out. If my record isn’t what I want it to be, I need to do a better job.”
Anybody who has watched him pitch this season knows Samardzija is being way too harsh on himself. No other pitcher in over 100 years has started the season the way he has without earning at least one victory. Samardzija wasn’t as dominant as he normally is, but he kept the Cubs in the game – despite a high pitch count partly due to those errors extending innings.
“You watch how a game starts, you kind of judge how you’re going to have to approach it,” Samardzija said. “You throw a lot of pitches early, you know you have to come back and try and save those pitches later in the game.”
In other words, when the errors started piling up, Samardzija knew he would have to be that much sharper. He shut down the Brewers in his final three innings, but, unfortunately, the Cubs went down 16 times in a row after getting within one run.
“He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he grinded out through five,” Renteria said. “He kept battling though.”
And the beat goes on for the Cubs ace. Now 0-4 with a miniscule ERA, he’s still looking in the mirror. He’ll go back to the video and try to get better for the next time out. It’s all he can control.
“There’s some things we need to improve on,” Samardzija stated.
For him, there’s not many.