Cubs' Samardzija comes up all aces in shutting out White Sox
Yes, Matt Garza is back in the Cubs' starting rotation.
Garza will have to wait to reclaim an old title. For now, the undisputed ace of the Cubs' starting rotation is Jeff Samardzija.
Backed by 7 runs from a top-heavy offense, Samardzija took care of his end Monday night, tossing a 2-hit complete game as the Cubs made quick work of the White Sox 7-0 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Samardzija has a deceptive record of 3-6; his ERA is 2.85. He recorded his first complete game last September in his final start of the season. On Opening Day this year, he went 8 innings to beat the Pirates. And he starred on a big stage again Monday against the Cubs' cross-town rivals.
"That's big-time pitchers; that's No. 1s," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "That's No. 1s knowing that our bullpen has been abused the last few days, knowing I got to go deep in this game to finish this game to give my bullpen a rest … That's what No. 1s do."
There's no doubt Samardzija has a bulldog mentality. So for him this was all in a night's work.
"I'm going out with the mindset to pitch deep in every game," he said. "If you want to be one of the guy the team turns to in big situations, that's the No. 1 thing — pitch deep into games, save your bullpen, and give your offense a chance to win the game.
"We saw it happen tonight. I had some quick innings. We go out there and put a quick 3 (runs) up there in the first few innings, which allows me to take a step back and pound the zone and really not get too worried about the long ball or anything like that.
"Just keep guys off the bases and then we tack on a few more. That's about how you write it up."
Samardzija, who threw 108 pitches, was in the high 90s (mph) from start to finish, and Sveum called his split-finger an "unhittable pitch."
From the fifth inning into the ninth, he retired 12 in a row. For the game he walked two and struck out eight in pitching the Cubs' second complete game this year. Scott Feldman had the other, on May 1.
As far as the offense goes, the Nos. 1-4 hitters combined for all 9 of the Cubs' hits, with Julio Borbon homering and Anthony Rizzo hitting a double and a triple.
The Cubs also walked three times, and they've drawn 15 walks in their last four games. The Cubs' lack of patience at the plate was a big pregame topic with general manager Jed Hoyer, who lamented his hitters' poor approaches.
"It's something we have to fix, that's for sure," Hoyer said. "You can look at the component numbers on this team, and we're far better than our record indicates.
"But for me it comes down to lack of on-base percentage. We just don't get on base enough. We don't walk enough.
"Our OPS looks good. Our slugging percentage looks good. The most important part of OPS is on-base percentage. That part of the equation is something we're not doing. You don't see a lot of multi-run homers we're hitting. We struggle to string a long inning together."
Things were just fine Monday night, on all fronts.
"We got big hits," Sveum said. "We made some quick outs, but we got some big hits. … We got a guy over. We got him in. The situational hitting was there.
"You can talk about it all you want, but the bottom line is the situational hitting was there tonight, and sometimes it's not there.
"You've got to get people on base any way you can. There's one stat that doesn't lie. If you walk more than the other team, you win a lot of ballgames. It's just a stat that's glaring."
•Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.
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